Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Posts Tagged ‘David Pecheco’

U.S. Fails to Protect Workers in Antarctica

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 31, 2011

“I am in the mercy of Liberty Mutual right now,” Pacheco said.

by Sophia Tewa 219 Magazine

An unusual man, David Pecheco decided at the age of 50 that he wanted to live the rest of his life in the treacherous South Pole, his wife Tina by his side. In October 2003, he took a job as a journeyman plumber and moved to the McMurdo Station in the southernmost tip of Antarctica, the hub of the United States’ scientific research efforts in the region.

The thrill didn’t last long.  On the morning of January 28, 2007, David Pacheco was sent to an empty building to drain and put antifreeze on pipes without knowing that the electricity was still on. When the water slashed out of the pipes, it conducted two lines of 277 volts throughout his body.

He flew 20 feet in the air. For a minute his heartbeat stopped.

When his supervisors finally arrived, it took them an hour and a half to turn off the electricity.

After several years of physical therapy for brain and nerve damage, Pacheco is still not expected to fully recover. Liberty Mutual, Raytheon’s insurance and worker’s compensation carrier, didn’t give total disability compensation and never paid his medical expenses. When he tried to seek compensation, he learned the hard way that American labor laws barely apply in the secluded world of Antarctica.

Hundreds of injuries have occurred in Antarctica since 2001, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, but only three cases have been reported to the U.S. Department of Labor. This, despite the fact that Antarctic contract employees are entitled to special insurance benefits under the Defense Base Act laws and contract companies are required to report all injuries to the Department of Labor. But Raytheon Polar Services (RPSC), the company hired to run the U.S. Antarctic program, failed to comply with the law.

Since employees are technically always on their job site, any injury even off-duty or recreational should be covered by RPSC’s insurance carrier Liberty Mutual. But it doesn’t always happen. The average worker’s comp cost per injury is $13,261. Liberty Mutual managed to reduce claims by about $1.2 million in 2002, Raytheon reported.

Liberty Mutual, Raytheon’s insurance and worker’s compensation carrier, never paid Pacheco’s $14,000 New Zealand hospital bill.  In the United States, the Pachecos were left to pay for most of their medical expenses. They’re now $20,000 in debt on credit cards.

“I am in the mercy of Liberty Mutual right now,” Pacheco said.

Please read the entire story here

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act, Dropping the DBA Ball, Injured Contractors, LHWCA Longshore Harbor Workers Compesnation Act, Liberty Mutual | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: