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.