Overseas Civilian Workers Have Special Workers Comp

Workers who suffer an on-the-job injury or death are generally covered by workers’ compensation. However, if a worker is working overseas, many are confused about whether or how they are covered.


The Defense Base Act provides special coverage for injuries and deaths to overseas civilian workers who provide services through federal government contracts. It is different from standard workers’ compensation, with different coverages, claims procedures, and benefits. But, like traditional workers’ compensation, federal contractors are generally required to have insurance for such claims.


The Act covers injuries or death occurring through services provided on any one of six main types of work:


1. Defense bases acquired from a foreign government;

2. Foreign lands occupied or used by the U.S. for military purposes;

3. Public works in any territory or possession under a contract with the U.S.;

4. Public works outside the U.S.;

5. Foreign work approved and financed by the U.S.; and,

6. Welfare or similar services authorized by the Department of Defense for U.S. troops outside the U.S.


If someone is injured in one of these situations, he or she should report the injury to the employer as soon as possible. The employee should ask for authorization to seek medical treatment from whomever they want. The employer or its insurer may require the employee to undergo a medical examination by one of their physicians, but the employee is free to select the treating physicians. The injured employee must cooperate with the employer and its insurer in investigating the facts and circumstances that resulted in the injury and must provide any requested information to the federal government’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. An injured employee must file a written claim for compensation within one year of the injury or one year of the last payment of compensation, whichever is later.


Many employees and employers are unfamiliar with the Defense Base Act, as are many lawyers. As a result, many compensable injuries go unreported or without compensation. We have extensive experience handling such claims. Call us at 256-469-3515, or contact us if you have a claim.