Defense Base Act & Longshore Act Law Firm in Florida
Garfinkel Schwartz PA
Maitland, Florida 32751
(407) 425-7777 or(800) 393-2999
Law Firm Overview
Garfinkel Schwartz has helped Defense Base Act law and Longshore Act law clients since 1976. Lead Counsel Attorney Brian Wiklendt returns client calls ASAP and explains to you what will happen in your case. We're committed to helping one person, one family at a time.
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The Longshore and Harbor Workersí Compensation Act Law was passed in 1927 to protect longshoremen who work on U.S. waters.Read Article
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Tricks Insurance Companies Use to Deny Your Claim
What Iíd like to do is talk to you very practically about insurance companies that work within and cover contractors covered by the Defense Base Act. There are only a few of them that kind of monopolize the market.
I donít like insurance companies because I used to be in-house counsel for an insurance company for a period of time. For a long period of time I was outside counsel for insurance companies so I know exactly how they work especially how they work under this law which is really, really bad.
Iíve had clients say that they didnít get an attorney until they called me because the nurse case manager said that she was going to take care of everything. Or the adjuster said, ďhey, once you get back home youíll be treated like a kingÖblah blah blah.Ē
The thing you should be aware of just practically speaking is that every time an insurance company does something, theyíre doing something to try to minimize your claim.
What I mean by that is if they ask for a recorded statement, why would they need a recorded statement from you? They already know what happened. They know that you were injured at work.
They want to try to find something that they can use against you in the future.
Itís the only reason that they would want a recorded statement from you.
They have witnesses they have the company knows what happened to you, what the injury was. They donít, they donít need that.
Number two is why would they send you to an independent medical exam at a doctor of their choosing? Wouldnít that mean that theyíre trying to figure a way not to rely on your treating physician whoís telling you that you need these things?
Thatís probably the only thatís the only purpose for sending you to an independent medical examination. Is to try to get away with not having to pay for your medical care.
Third thing, they do a vocational assessment. What is a vocational assessment?
Well someone interviews you about all of your qualifications all the things that you could possibly do physically even though you could be partially or pretty much permanently disabled.
Theyíll be doing this vocational assessment to try to find jobs for you to help you get back on your feet? No!
Theyíre trying to find jobs they think they can qualify you to do to send those jobs and the qualifications and the physical requirements to send to their Independent Medical Examiner or Peer Review person to sign off and say yeah we can probably prove to a judge that he or she can do these jobs. Well that obviously will reduce the benefits that they pay and thatís the only reason they do it.
They donít do it for your benefit. After the Vocational Assessment thereís whatís done a Labor Market Survey is done on you. And that that they try to search for and find jobs that pay enough money that it will affect your bottom line as to what your compensation rate should be in the future.
Another two things the insurance companies do to try to minimize your claim or get away with not paying you are:
Number One they want you to go to a Functional Capacity Evaluation. Theyíre looking for exaggeration, theyíre looking for any type of thing that they can think of to say that youíre not trying your best, doing exercises and doing these different bending and lifting things that you may or may not be able to do.
And they only simply do the Functional Capacity Evaluation to try to get you back into the workforce under their terms and not under your or your doctorís terms. So be aware of the Functional Capacity Evaluation as well.
Finally a lot of times if the case is really and it looks like long-term care is going to be needed, including possible surgery, itís not unlike, itís not, itís not uncommon for the insurance company to do surveillance on you. And thatís just another one of the tools that they have in their arsenal to try to get you trapped up and explaining during maybe in an initial written statement or oral statement they ask you for maybe in a deposition if youíre not represented.
Theyíre going to try to twist your words and say ďyou acted like you couldnít do anything, and we saw you in your yard cutting your grass, picking up your kidsÖblah blah blah and then theyíll try to say that youíre untrustworthy to the judge.
So those are all the things that the insurance companies do to people regardless of you individually because youíre just simply a number to them and they want to try to minimize the number that theyíre going to have to pay you.
Like I said sometimes they act like theyíre trying to help you out and doing all these things. Thereís absolutely no reason why they would do any of these things other than to try to minimize what they have to pay you.
And so anytime you start to feel a little uncomfortable about these things that theyíre trying to do thatís the time youíve got to call an attorney has worked for a while in the Defense Base Act law...because itís complicated.
Insurance companies have giant resources and an entire industry on their side playing these games to try and reduce or completely cut off your benefits.
How a Defense Base Act Case Begins
Weíre coming to you from our Maitland offices in Central Florida from the law firm of Garfinkel Schwartz.
Weíre here today to talk to you just a little bit about the intake process about new clients signing up and what you might expect.
So Brian would you like to take it from here?
Sure. We get calls from around the world. E-mails from people who donít speak English. India, calls from Kansas, we get calls from everywhere. And although your case may be in a different state than the beginning stages. Iíve gotten calls and we have clients who decided to change attorneys after speaking with us. Iíve had ones that called me two days before trial. Weíre willing to accommodate anything. And where thereís a will thereís a way.
But generally speaking, what happens is, we have a website obviously, that you know of since youíre watching this video. Weíre proud of our website and we have an 800 number or a way to directly e-mail your concerns and I will get them.
What happens is we have an answering service thatís on 24 hours a day. You patch a call into the 800 number the answering service answers it live 24 hours a day. It then gets dispatched either to Doreen my paralegal or to myself immediately in that order. After that happens if none of us is available letís say itís nine oíclock at night, we both get e-mails instantly sent from our answering service with information to contact you back. Normally speaking I contact people back probably within ten minutes from getting the thing that rings on my cell phone the little ding thing that rings on my cell phone. And if you put your phone information or e-mail information in one of the two of us Doreen or I will get back to you unless itís a holiday pretty much instantly.
What happens after that is either Doreen or I whoever is available first basically goes through the scenario of what happened to you or if itís a wife or loved one what happened to their spouse. We take calls like that all the time as well.
What happens then is we evaluate the case and ultimately youíll speak to me at the end of the day because I on behalf of the firm need to make the decision of taking the case or not.
The reason thatís so important in our area of the law is that weíre not paid by the hour and weíre not paid by a percentage. The only way that our firm gets paid is separately through the Department of Labor based on our hourly rate and the hours we spend if we get you a benefit.
So itís the process in which Iím not being rude about it, but I have to feel confident that your case is good enough for me to get you a benefit before I take the risk with you and our firm spends the resources with you to go forward.
And at that point weíre pretty much family. Weíre in this together. If you donít get your benefit I donít get any money and if that happens more so than not, weíre not in business.
So thatís the reason the intake process is very personalized, I donít delegate that to anyone because itís basically you know itís my responsibility in the firm that our cases are viable and that I can get benefits for our clients.
Basically what happens after that is we have an intake package thatís sent out.
The intake package consists of the retainer agreement that gets sent to the Department of Labor entering me as your lawyer, and thatís called an entry of appearance that gets sent to the Department of Labor right away as soon as you sign the document.
We also have a statement of clientís rights which gives you your rights under basically Florida law and then more generally Federal law. But it just basically tells you that I have the burden of explaining to you what the attorney fee structure is, how it works, when you have to pay me which is basically never. And it just asserts that you can cancel the contract if youíre not happy. You can contact me with more information that you might need from the law firm or my credentials or things like that.
Thirdly thereís a medical authorization form thatís sent out so that we can start getting the medical information. Once we receive that and obviously our goal is to use e-mail as best we can with scanning documents and faxes. For you to get us any of the pertinent information that we need to start your case. Where the case stands whether itís at the beginning of the matter or at the middle of the matter, what things have been filed if any. What notifications have been given to the insurance company.
After that I decide that your case is viable and that we should help each other with this, I give it back over to the paralegal Doreen. She sends you the intake package any way that you want to have it sent to you.
As soon as we receive it it goes to Bennett. Bennettís job starts then. So Iíll hand it back over to Bennett.
So when I receive the medical documents what Iím looking for are patterns, are diagnosis, are ways for which I can help Brian prove that your injury is as a result of your employment with your contractor from the Department of Defense. So what Iíll look for are specific keywords or specific diagnostic techniques that your physicians have already used. Iíll look at the medical screenings from and prior to your employment overseas vs. your medical screenings afterword or the incident reports from the injury. And what Iíll do is make a comprehensive list of the timeline of the injuries of the events. How you sought treatment, where you sought treatment and these will be very important for the litigation process for Brian to be able to convince the Department of Labor that the case is worth going forward within an informal conference.
And once Brian again takes over the litigation aspect because Iím not an attorney, nor am I a physician but I do have background training in emergency medicine treatment and I do have background training in psychology.
So what Iím able to do then is to help clients because as Brian said, once you sign up for us, we consider you part of our family. And one thing thatís very important to me is to finding you the best doctors who available.
Personally Iíve had five spinal surgeries and Iíve had chronic pain for a long time. So I can very much relate to a lot of our clients that are suffering from either chronic pain or from psychological illnesses because theyíre very very difficult things to go through.
And we believe that your job is to get better. Our job is to help you with the legal aspect.
Brianís job is to convince the Department of Labor and your insurance company to give you the benefits and the backpay that you deserve.
And what I do additionally do is I look for physicians in your area that have the best training, the best cutting edge treatment. Sometimes Iíll call them in to interview them. Sometimes Iíll help you schedule an appointment.
And discuss with you possible routes of treatment which will get benefits for you hopefully to be covered.
So weíre looking for you to get the best medical treatment in your area and thatís what my job is here.
In addition to that once we get through the interview process together which may take a couple of minutes up to a couple of hours depending on the severity of the illness and whatís going on with your loved one or with you.
We do advance the cost of an evaluation if we feel that itís medically necessary and you do not have insurance or other means of getting that.
Our firm has made it a policy to advance the cost of an evaluation. Normally those are not medically related in terms of physical side because you probably have received emergency treatment from whatever country youíre in or wherever they sent you.
The evaluations that weíre talking about normally have to do with some sort of mental defects, traumatic brain injury and most likely PTSD.
So if we talk together and everyoneís willing, we do find mental health physicians that we can rely on that will help get you at least an evaluation.
And if the evaluation comes back and you donít have PTSD then thatís fine. Thatís not a problem. We donít ask for you to pay us the money. We pay for the evaluation to get you at least the information that you need to go forward.
After that stage happens litigation occurs an informal conference is then set, which has to be set. Thatís with the opposing counsel or the opposing adjuster or the case manager on your file which is either the employer or most usually an insurance company who have most probably denied at least some or all of your medical care and or payments, indemnity payments.
We have to go through that process because the Department of Labor has a neutral person thatís a claims examiner thatís over top of the process of the informal conference and acts as a judge however their decision is not binding.
So what happens after that is we still have issues on either side that havenít been ironed out at that informal conference.
Then we file and we try and we get a hearing with the administrative law judge. And with that comes discovery, depositions and those other things that have the case go forward, make the case go forward so we can prove our claim and narrow the issues down to when we go to the judge weíre confident we can get the benefits you deserve.
And from time to time Bennett and Doreen will assist me in trying to get the information that we need from various sources. Some easy some hard. Some foreign hospitals very difficult to get records. VA hospitals, VA very difficult to get records and thatís their job they hound everyone they know everyone. Thatís a big benefit of our firm because in the firm, this firm has been in existence for so long whether itís by retirement or death, basically combined we know everyone that deals in this type of law.
Everyone at the Department of Labor. We know the general doctors that youíre sent to. We know the insurance companies, attorneys on the other side.
And it really helps to get documents through faster or favors to be made to get things that would more likely be very difficult to get and so thatís what we do here.
Weíre a team here we have combined efforts. We have other people that can help us if we need to.
And weíre always here to help in any way we can.
And if we donít think you have a case weíll just tell you straight up and because thatís just kind of what we have to do in our area of law to get paid.
And itís a very big benefit to you in terms of that and itís a big benefit to us as well. Once weíre comfortable with your claim and knowing that you have been denied the benefits that you deserve.
Anything else Bennett?
Yes, well one thing youíll never have to pay us a dime ever so itís always worth calling us up and having a conversation to see if you have a case. And if we decide that you do itís a good idea to move forward with us because as you said we have the experience and the networking to really add to the benefit for this very specialized type of federal litigation. Most lawyers are unfamiliar with Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act and the Defense Base Act Law which is again under federal law. Itís different than state workerís compensation.
And I think that hopefully that answered some of your questions about the process of becoming a client here at Garfinkel Schwartz.
This is attorney and lead counsel Brian Wiklendt and my name is Bennett Garfinkel and Iím Brianís legal assistant and Iím also the medical researcher here at Garfinkel Schwartz. Not a doctor not an attorney but I do a lot of the supportive work here.
So we hope this answered your questions and we appreciate your time and hopefully you can give us a call.
I have one more thing to add, even if you donít sign up with the firm, everything that you say is confidential. Whether you talk with Bennett or I or Doreen or someone else in the firm itís all completely confidential attorney client privileged information even if you do not sign with our firm.
And if you donít sign with our firm, I would urge you to try to seek legal help because in this area of law you really truly need a lawyer on your side and it doesnít cost you anything.
With that in mind signing off this is Bennett Garfinkel and Brian Wiklendt from Garfinkel Schwartz here in Maitland Florida. We also have offices in Cocoa Beach we also have clients all across the country and the world.
Thank you for listening take care, thanks.