The Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA) Workers’ Compensation Seminar was recently held in Omaha. Firm partner Todd Bennett was one of the presenters to the almost 90 people who braved the winter weather to attend. He discussed “Farm Workers Under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.”
He was motivated to share his expertise because of his experiences representing farm workers, Bennett said. Injured workers, including farm workers, need the protection and benefits that workers’ compensation can provide, but many states’ limit how workers’ compensation is applied to farm workers.
“It is a web of statutory exceptions that you have to wind through in order to obtain a recovery,” Bennett said. “Working in a farming operation is dangerous business. Despite being the staple profession that helped make this country, thousands are injured and hundreds die each year due to the dangerous functions and exposures they face.”
Generally, farm and ranch hands are not included under workers’ compensation coverage and benefits, Bennett said. However, there are many exceptions that would bring a person under workers’ compensation coverage, and then the worker would receive the protections and benefits of someone who is injured on the job and unrelated to the owner of the farming operation. The statute in Nebraska that applies here is §48-106 (7). Because an employer has to have an employee sign the following written notice either when hired or at least 30 days before the employee’s injury for the exemption to hold: “In this employment you will not be covered by the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, and you will not be compensated under the act if you are injured on the job or suffer an occupational disease. You should plan accordingly.” If this process isn’t done, according to the statute, then the employer can be held liable and included in the workers’ compensation act “for any unrelated employee to whom such notice was not given.”
Helping guide injured farm workers and others through the statutes is why Bennett believes in his work and made this subject the focus of his presentation.
“Farming is dangerous work, and many are injured and several die performing this work. Many accidents are preventable, and despite having a valid claim, many go without the statutory benefits they deserve. Many also think ‘lawyer’ is a dirty word. However, knowing how to lead through the steps in the law and knowing which forum to bring the case in order to obtain a recovery for a farm or ranch hand is hard to do, but it is a necessary and noble thing for those in need. It’s an honor to bring justice to those who deserve it and are in need of it.”
Firm associates Brody Ockander and Brianne Rohner also attended the NATA event. The program was approved for continuing education by both Nebraska and Iowa MCLE Commissions, according to the NATA website.
It is important for attorneys to stay current with the law, and the firm’s members are encouraged to participate in continuing education and networking opportunities through professional associations. It is also helpful for attorneys to share legal knowledge through presenting at professional development opportunities like the NATA seminar. Over 510 people, including law students, are NATA members.
Bennett also recently attended the Iowa Association for Justice’s (IAJ) 22nd Annual Workers’ Compensation seminar, as he is licensed to practice in both Iowa and Nebraska. Topics covered included the interplay between workers’ compensation and immigration; unemployment law basics; understanding diagnostic testing; understanding the process of further review on appeal; and addressing issues in representing over-the-road truck drivers.
“This event was valuable to aid in the process of representing many workers with many and different issues as they continue to fight for the same rights when they face dealing with work injuries,” Bennett said.