The Journal of Workers Compensation
the environment where an employee is posted, the more lenient the rules on compensability.
DBA case precedents have determined that, in some circumstances, an employee does not even need to be engaged in activities of benefit to the employer at the time of an accident to recover under DBA. All that is required is an obligation or condition of employment, such as a post- ing overseas, that represents a positional risk and thus a “zone of special danger” for the employee. The basis for this is: But for the fact the worker was deployed on foreign soil under contract to the U.S. government at the time of the event, the injury or death would not have occurred.
Consider a civilian truck driver (whether American, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, British, etc.) working for the U.S. military out of Baghdad’s Green Zone. The employee would certainly be covered under DBA insurance for injury or death due to an event occurring during the performance of his or her duties. That person is also covered when off-duty and relaxing with friends at a base commissary if a rocket attack occurs and causes injury. Likewise, the injury would be compensable if it occurred when a vehicle accidentally crashed into the commissary and struck the employee who was off-duty while sitting at a table.
However, what if the employee leans back too far in his chair, falls over, and hits his head on the patio? Would DBA insurance respond to such an injury? The hard-and-fast answer is: It depends. If an employee is stationed in what today is considered a stable venue such as Germany or Okinawa, it is unlikely that such a mishap would be compensable under DBA insurance. In Iraq, where opportunities for “reasonable recreation” outside the Green Zone are necessarily limited, such an occurrence might be compensable depending upon a judge’s interpretation of the “zone of special danger” principle. However, on a remote island where the employee is provided all housing, recreation, medical care, and transportation by the employer (thus essentially “living the job” 24/7), it is very possible that positional risk and the zone of special danger would be interpreted in such a way that the injury might be deemed compensable. Compensability under DBA travels a continuum of shades of gray — not the relatively black-and-white guidelines of traditional workers compensation.
CAusAl relAtionshiPs neeD not exist
In a key 1951 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the court found that the test of recovery under DBA insurance does not necessarily demand a di- rect causal relationship between the nature of the claimant’s employment and the accident that causes an injury or death. In this case, a civilian