When to call a lawyer for your Nebraska workers’ compensation claim
Did you know that the Reuben sandwich and Kool-Aid both originated in Nebraska? Truth! But today, the state is best known for its agricultural production. The largest industry is food processing—specifically, beef production.
Omaha, which is the largest city in Nebraska, has 40% of its workforce in the service sector, and a significant portion of the population works in trade, transportation, utilities, finance, insurance and real estate.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Nebraska had 19.3 thousand recordable cases of non-fatal work injuries in the most recent reported year.
Fortunately, though, the law has a system that provides benefits to anyone who is injured at work, regardless of the severity of the injury.
What is workers’ compensation?
Nebraska workers’ compensation is included in state law to provide benefits to a worker who is injured on the job or becomes ill due to conditions at work.
A Nebraska employer is required to provide workers’ compensation insurance for employees who are full- or part-time, seasonal, temporary or minors. They are not required to provide insurance for independent contractors.
There are a few exceptions. The following types of workers are not included in workers’ compensation coverage:
- Federal or railroad employees (who are covered under FELA)
- Domestic servants
- Agricultural laborers
- Self-employed, sole proprietors, partners or members of an LLC
- Company officers who own more than 25% of the company’s stock
- Non-profit organization executive officers who earn less than $1,000 per year.
There are a few important aspects to workers’ compensation laws:
1. Nebraska workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance.
One reason why workers’ compensation insurance is so valuable to an injured employee is that you never need to prove liability, negligence or fault in order to make a claim.
You need to show that the injury either happened while you were at your workplace, while you were engaged in duties related to your job, or is an illness resulting from your work or work environment.
2. Even if you were off-site, you can claim benefits if you were injured while engaged in work activities.
If your work takes you to a client or customer’s home or office, a construction site, any other field location, or even if you run an errand for your boss, you can be compensated for an injury that happens while you’re working.
You can’t receive workers’ compensation for injuries during your commute or during an off-site lunch break, however.
3. Some injuries or illnesses are from long-term or ongoing conditions.
There are two types of injuries for which you can receive Nebraska workers’ compensation that are not the result of a one-time accident or specific incident.
- Strain injury. You could suffer an injury from repetitive strain (also known as repetitive motion injuries or RMIs) because of a repeated motion like cutting food, sorting materials or something else. Sometimes this results in injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome or other types of neck or back problems. You can also suffer an injury from heavy lifting, twisting, or even your body’s position at your desk or computer station. Often, these injuries develop over time and aren’t attributable to a single incident.
- Exposure illness. There are diseases or problems that can develop over time because of exposure to various conditions in your workplace. Sometimes it could be a toxin, like asbestos, which is common on some construction sites. There are other chemicals or substances that, when exposed for weeks, months, or years, can have negative effects on your health. It could be from handling (skin exposure), breathing or any other way that the chemical enters your body. You could also have exposure to other elements, like loud noise, that cause hearing loss or other neurological issues.
When an accident happens, it’s usually easy to prove that the injury is related to your work. Witness accounts, workplace documentation and other evidence can be plenty to demonstrate to the insurer that your injury is compensable.
But when your injuries develop or an illness develops over time, it is harder to prove that it’s linked to your work. Once your doctor diagnoses you with a condition, you’ll need to show that the condition is the result of a known issue in the workplace (for example, exposure to a substance) and that it couldn’t have been caused any other way. That can present difficulties — for instance, if you have back strain because you repeatedly lift heavy boxes at work, you’d need to show that the lifting is the cause of your injury and not the fact that you play in a recreational basketball league on weekends.
How do you prove your injury was related to work?
It’s tough! We won’t lie—it could be an uphill battle. But there’s hope. And that’s why you might need to consult a qualified Nebraska workers’ compensation attorney. Your lawyer will have medical and other experts who can calculate figures like the amount of time you were exposed to the hazard as compared to the severity of your injury in order to prove your case.
What if someone is at fault?
If you’re the injured worker, the benefit to workers’ compensation insurance is that you can potentially receive fast benefits without having to prove how the injury happened or that anyone was liable.
The benefit to the employer is that the employee may not file a civil personal injury lawsuit against them for the injury because they’re already receiving compensation for their costs.
However, if your injury was caused by the negligence of a person or entity other than your employer, you could file a third-party lawsuit. This could be the best course of action if your injuries are severe and include pain and suffering or emotional distress, which is outside the scope of workers’ compensation coverage.
Nebraska workers’ compensation benefits
This includes all reasonable medical expenses, including hospital bills, assistive devices like wheelchairs, prescription medications, and travel costs for appointments.
An employee must inform the worker that the worker may choose a physician or use their own primary care provider. If the employee doesn’t choose a treating physician, then the employer may select one for them. The employer or insurance company may also ask the worker to submit to an examination by a doctor of the employer or insurer’s choice at the employer’s expense.
Vocational rehabilitation benefits
If you cannot return to the same job you had before the injury, your workers’ compensation benefits provide job retraining, job placement services, and other vocational rehabilitation. If you’re in a court-approved job placement or have a training plan, you can still receive temporary disability benefits during that time.
Disability (indemnity) benefits
If you miss time from work or if your injury or illness leaves you with permanent effects, you might be able to receive either temporary or permanent benefits.
|Temporary disability benefits
|Temporary total disability
|Temporary partial disability
⅔ average weekly wage, subject to state maximum and minimum.
Paid when employee returns to work under limited capacity or if the job pays less than their job from prior to the injury.
This ends when the employee has been released from medical treatment or reaches maximum medical improvement.
|Permanent disability benefits
|Permanent partial disability
|Permanent total disability
This includes benefits for the loss of use of a body part based on values assigned by the state.
You could also have permanent partial disability to the body as a whole, which would include an injury to the neck, back or head. This would usually also include any body part that is not included in the state’s schedule of body parts.
The amount of benefits is usually calculated on the basis of lost earning capacity.
If you’ve lost function of more than one body part, it’s considered a permanent total disability.
This would also include an employee who is permanently unable to work in any capacity because of their injuries.
If a person dies of a work-related illness or injury, workers’ compensation provides burial benefts up to $11,000.
The deceased worker’s surviving dependents can be paid up to 75% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage, up to a state-mandated maximum that is set each year. The death benefits can continue for up to 500 weeks unless the surviving spouse dies or remarries (a lump sum worth two years of benefits is paid out at the time of the remarriage) and children can receive benefits until they are 19 years old or until age 25 if they are full-time students. A disabled child can continue to receive benefits.
What to do after an injury at work
If you’re a Nebraska employee who’s been injured, you should notify your employer as soon as possible. If you have an urgent medical issue, you should seek diagnosis and treatment. Be sure to tell the treating physician that it’s a work injury.
The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court has an online tool that you can use to check your employer’s insurance coverage.
Should you call a Nebraska workers’ compensation lawyer?
You’re not required to have a lawyer, even if you have a dispute with your employer or the insurance company over your coverage. But it might help if you do.
The Workers’ Compensation Court won’t help advocate for you, but your lawyer will. If your injuries are severe or their effects long-lasting, it would be helpful to have a lawyer who knows how to negotiate a claim so that you are certain you’re receiving the maximum possible compensation.
The basis for personal injury law is fairly straightforward:
If you're injured because of someone's negligence, then you're entitled to recover for your financial losses related to the injury.
The premise for the workers' compensation system is similar:
Your employer is required to have specific insurance that provides benefits if you're injured at work.