What Are “War-Risk Hazards”?

One of the mandatory prerequisites for coverage or reimbursement under the War Hazards Compensation Act is the requirement that the contractor’s injury must have been caused by a “war-risk hazard.”  Both the United States Code (42 U.S.C. § 1711(b)) and the Code of Federal Regulations (20 C.F.R. § 61.4(e)) defines a “war-risk hazard” to mean “any hazard arising during a war in which the Unites States is engaged; during an armed conflict in which the United States is engaged, whether or not war has been declared; or during a war or armed conflict between military forces of any origin, occurring within any country in which a person covered by this Act is serving; from–

(1) the discharge of any missile (including liquids and gas) or the use of any weapon, explosive, or other noxious thing by a hostile force or person or in combating an attack or an imagined attach by a hostile force or person; or

(2) action of a hostile force or person, including rebellion or insurrection against the United States or any of its allies; or

(3) the discharge or explosion of munitions intended for use in connection with a war or armed conflict with a hostile force or person as defined [in the WHCA] (except with respect to employees of a manufacturer, processor, or transporter of munitions during the manufacture, processing, or transporting thereof, or while stored on the premises of the manufacturer, processor, or transporter); or

(4) the collision of vessels in convoy or the operation of vessels or aircraft without running lights or without other customary peacetime aids to navigation; or

(5) the operation of vessels or aircraft in a zone of hostilities or engaged in war activities.”

Whether or not a particular injury was caused by a “war-risk hazard” is necessarily a question of fact.  In most instances, a “war-risk hazard” will be caused by the violent actions of a hostile force or person.  For instance, if a contractor was injured by small arms fire or an improvised explosive device, then he was injured by a “war-risk hazard.”  Nonetheless, a hostile force or person is not a prerequisite for all WHCA claims.  The fifth definition of a “war-risk hazard” extends coverage for injuries caused during “the operation of vessels or aircraft in a zone of hostilities or engaged in war activities.”  No action by a hostile force or person (e.g. firing a rocket-propelled grenade at a helicopter) need take place.  Instead, the exigencies and circumstances of operating aircraft in a war zone (such as quick exits or fast-roping from helicopters, or aircraft crashes due to weather or terrain conditions) can create the hazard. 

Jon Robinson
As a Member at Mouledoux, Bland, Legrand & Brackett, Jon Robinson focuses his practice on the representation of employers and carriers in matters arising under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, the Defense Base Act, and the War Hazards Compensation Act. He can be contacted at (504) 595-3000 or by e-mail at jrobinson@mblb.com.
Jon Robinson