Tag Archives: OSHA

Series Shows Reality for Workers at Meatpacking Plants

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Here are many recommended reading links for people who care about how workers are treated at places that process the meat that lands on their tables.

I have recently written about how packing plants are still brutal places to work, according to the Government Accountability office, and the articles below reinforce those perceptions.

Harvest Public Media and NET Nebraska recently collaborated on reports that show the reality of life for the majority of people who work in meatpacking plants. Because there is different information in the audio and the written reports, I think it’s best to read and listen to both. The series is appropriately called: Dangerous Jobs, Cheap Meat

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA for short, considers work in food plants to be high-hazard manufacturing industries, and recently completed a 90-day regional emphasis in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri that focused on such businesses.

Getting hurt working in a meatpacking plant is so common. As a person can read at the links, injury incidents range from repetitive motion problems for workers on the line to a maintenance worker being killed by machinery without the right guards and also amputations for employees struggling to earn a wage and keep up with line speeds.

Even with new reporting requirements that OSHA has, some experts say that injuries are underreported in meatpacking plants. A recent report also showed that working conditions were bad, specifically in poultry plants.

“The rate of meatpacking workers who lose time or change jobs because they’re injured is 70 percent higher than the average for manufacturing workers overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” as quoted in the NET Nebraska article about safety efforts. However, the article says that “meat processing is drastically safer than it was 20 years ago.”

Knowing that a workplace is safer but is a place where “meat and poultry workers are still hurt more often than other manufacturing workers” is a small assurance to those who work there.

The article talks about how companies are trying to change their culture and safety records.

It’s hard to not be skeptical, as injured workers are rushed back to the line, denied treatment, or fired for being unable to perform their jobs. That’s one reason that we represent meatpacking plant employees and families who suffer a wrongful death.

Greta Horner said this in the article about her husband’s “preventable” death as a maintenance worker at a meatpacking plant, and I firmly believe it.

“They need to realize that everybody that works there is a human being with a life and it’s not just a statistic, it’s a person.

“Their employees aren’t cattle that go through the chutes. They’re people with families.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Why Not Prosecute Employers for Manslaughter When They Cause Worker Deaths?

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Earlier this week, I read a blog post about a contractor facing criminal charges for gross violations of safety regulations leading to the death of an employee in a trench.

Also recently, another blog post describes large Occupational Safety and Health Administration fines levied against Nebraska businesses for serious OSHA violations relating to a cave-in fatality in Alliance, Nebraska. 

Several years ago, I represented a young mother who lost her husband in a cave-in that took four lives in Nebraska and resulted in an initial penalty of more than $200,000 for multiple violation of OSHA. 

On the way to work the other day, I heard part of an NET series on the radio that talked about the many safety risks in meatpacking plants. What many people don’t know, and that the NET link points out, is that fines are related to the safety problems and violations found, not necessarily related to how badly someone was injured or whether a worker died in the incident that prompted OSHA’s inspection.

“The agency assesses fines based on violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, not based on injuries or fatalities those violations actually cause, (Herb Gibson, OSHA area director for the Denver office) says. A worker death, and possibly a serious worker injury, will spur OSHA into action to conduct an inspection, but a worker death doesn’t necessarily influence the final fine the company pays, even if one of the violations plays a role. 

“‘In my personal opinion, the fines could be modified for fatal cases but that’s not what the law — it doesn’t have a separate penalty for a fatality,’ Gibson says. ‘And that would require legislation to change that particular provision.’”

As a representative of injured workers, I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of work injuries or deaths caused by gross disregard of safety codes and regulations by employers. Trench deaths are an example of such situations. They are highly preventable if OSHA regulations are honored.

Yet, I am unaware of a Nebraska  prosecutor filing criminal charges, even though we have statutes supporting such charges. 

In Nebraska, one definition of manslaughter states: “A person commits manslaughter if he … causes the death of another unintentionally while in the commission of an unlawful act.” 

Violating safety codes or OSHA violations are unlawful acts. Causing human beings to work in trenches that do not follow OSHA  is an unlawful act. Why not make examples of businesses that violate safety laws? Perhaps then more employers would treat safety in the workplace with more diligence and respect for workers and their families.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Heat Injuries Are Included in Workers’ Compensation

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How is your summer going? Is it hot enough for you? Are you used to the heat yet?

These are all good questions for folks to ask each other as the calendar start of summer is coming. When you and your loved ones work outside, do you take breaks? What kind of training has your employer provided to make sure safety is followed in the outdoor workplace?

This link from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration was found on the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group’s Twitter feed and has some excellent resources available, including a smartphone app. These key words are really helpful for safety in the summer heat: “Water. Rest. Shade. The work can’t get done without them.” The link also includes educational resources, information about using the heat index, training, and an online toolkit.

Please review and follow these tips with loved ones before someone you know gets overheated this summer. Keep in mind that if a heat-related injury does occur at work, it’s important to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer for advice on what to do next.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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A Year of Injuries, and Lessons

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Today’s post was shared by the U.S. Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov It was written by Dr. David Michaels, who is the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Although there has been some social-media coverage, this has been my first opportunity to read this particular summary. By clicking through to the OSHA report (where it says “we published a report of our evaluation”) and reading the eight-page document titled “Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation” a person will gain some really helpful perspective and context for determining how effective this change in reporting “severe work-related injuries, including 7,363 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations,” according to the report itself, was.

The graphic that breaks down hospitalizations, and the graphic in the larger report that breaks down amputations, are really interesting reading just by themselves.

“Our two main goals for the new reporting requirement were to engage more employers in identifying and eliminating serious hazards themselves, and to allow us to better target our enforcement and compliance assistance efforts to places where workers are most at risk. After reviewing the field reports and associated data, we are confident that both goals are being met,” Michaels said in the blog post.

He also writes about how OSHA is now “more likely to cite for non-reporting, and we have increase the maximum penalty for not reporting a severe injury from $2,000 to $7,000.”

Although lawyers often use the results of an OSHA investigation to help a client’s case, an injured worker frequently has a workers’ compensation case whether there is an OSHA investigation or not. So please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to talk over the details of the situation that a loved one or you are in regarding a work injury or death. Have a safe, productive day.

In January 2015, we started requiring employers to report any work-related severe injury – such as an amputation or an injury requiring hospitalization – within 24 hours. In the first year, we received 10,388 reports, or nearly 30 a day.

Each report told the story of a man or woman who went to work one day and experienced a traumatic event, sometimes with permanent consequences to themselves and their families. But the reports also created opportunities for OSHA to engage with employers in ways we had never done before, and to ensure that changes were made to prevent similar incidents from happening to others.

Infographic showing number and percentage of workplace injuries that led to hospitalizations by industry

We learned things that surprised us, encouraged us and sometimes disappointed us. Today, we published a report of our evaluation that features stories from our offices around the country and reflects on lessons learned in the first year.

Our two main goals for the new reporting requirement were to engage more employers in identifying and eliminating serious hazards themselves, and to allow us to better target our enforcement and compliance assistance efforts to places where workers are most at risk. After reviewing the field reports and associated data, we are confident that both goals are being met.

A few examples explain how:

  • In Chicago, a conveyor loaded with liquid chocolate suddenly started up as a worker was cleaning a roller. Her arm was pulled in and mangled so badly that she required a plate and skin grafting. To prevent future injuries,…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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March Tragic Month for Nebraska Workers: 4 Deaths So Far

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Did you know that four people in Nebraska have died in work-related incidents this month? And March isn’t even over yet.

This recent news release from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration goes into more detail about the circumstances regarding each person’s tragic, and as noted, “preventable work-related death.” Sympathies go to the loved ones of a 62-year-old worker in Sutherland; a 42-year-old worker in Hayland; a 42-year-old worker in Walthill; and a 61-year-old worker in Alliance.

It seems like the firm’s social-media channels have been inundated with these sad announcements, because all of these tragedies have occurred over less than two weeks. Four deaths in two weeks compares to 12 total on-the-job deaths in 2015, according to the news release.

“Additionally, OSHA has also opened 41 investigations since Jan. 1, 2016, 32 incidents were hospitalizations and nine were due to amputations. Last year, 162 severe Nebraska worker injuries were reported to OSHA, 113 of those required hospitalization and 52 involved amputation injuries.”

I agree with OSHA officials that it is essential for Nebraska’s business to review their safety and health programs and also make sure employees know and are using those procedures on a regular basis.

“Employers and workers alike can prevent job-related injury and death with simple, common sense safety procedures,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “With spring now upon us, construction and other seasonable work will soon be in full swing. Once again, workers will be exposed to some of the most frequently cited OSHA hazards such as falls, struck-by, and trenching – three of the hazards suspected in the most recent fatalities.”

If you have questions about potential safety hazards in your workplace or you or a loved one has been injured at work, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you determine how to proceed. In addition, OSHA’s toll-free hotline is 800-321-OSHA (6742), and OSHA’s Omaha office number is 402-553-0171.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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OSHA Fines Nebraska Railcar Almost $1 Million after Explosion

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The incident referred to in this article was extremely tragic, as two workers were killed in April. Now OSHA has found that Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services knew “that moments before the blast, an air quality check indicated a serious risk of an explosion. OSHA says that despite the warning, Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services sent two employees into the railcar to work without monitoring the air continuously for explosive hazards as required, nor providing the employees with emergency retrieval equipment or properly fitted respirators.”

Sympathies continue to go to the loved ones of both Dallas Foulk and Adrian LaPour.

Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program and fined $963,000 for “seven egregious willful, three willful, two repeated, 20 serious, and one other than serious safety and health violations.”

In addition, the article said the EPA is doing an investigation regarding the company’s hazardous-waste disposal.

For those who argue that businesses have safety and the best interests of their workers in mind, please read the article linked to above, and really think about that philosophy, especially when an explosion led to workers dying. Then read the quote from the article below and ask yourself about workplace safety again.

“This company has regularly failed to use appropriate equipment and procedures to keep their employees safe, and in this case it had tragic consequences,” Jeff Funke, OSHA Area Director in Omaha, said in a written statement. “The company needs to immediately reevaluate its procedures for entering and cleaning railcars.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Texas Trench Collapse Results in $400k OSHA Fine and 16 Safety Violations

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Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, an advocate for workers from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. In it, he writes about a high fine that was levied against a Texas construction company by OSHA after a trench collapse.

OSHA is active investigating companies in Nebraska, too. Just last week, OSHA cited Endicott Clay Products in Endicott, Nebraska, “after a 41-year-old worker was fatally crushed in a machine on June 16, 2015.” Three serious safety violations were cited, regarding in proposed penalties to the company of $15,300. There were missing or inadequate safety guards, along with fall hazards present. “The worker was crushed by a brick setting machine when it operated as he was retrieving bricks that had been drying in the kiln,” according to a news release from OSHA.

Although these OSHA investigations and fines aren’t a huge deterrent, even when it’s a fine as in the article below, the efforts at least hold the offending business somewhat accountable to know that they need to examine their safety structures. And safety includes at least three things: well-maintained equipment that is appropriate for the job, training on how to use that equipment to be safe, and a company culture that encourages employees to consider safety and also ask for changes or help if they can’t do their jobs in a safe manner. Have a safe and productive day.

On July 22, 2015, Hassell Construction Co. was cited by OSHA for 16 safety violations (including 6 egregious willful violations) and given a whopping $423,900 fine. Hassell Construction Co. is a construction company based in Richmond, Texas with about 150 employees that construct water and sewer lines around Houston, Texas. The employer was given 15 business days to comply with each citation, request an informal conference with OSHA’s Houston South area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the OSHA Health Review Commission.

These citations were given after a trench that was 8 feet below the ground collapsed in February crushing an unsuspecting employee. Luckily, the worker was dug out by his co-workers using their bare hands. The minute the worker was freed from the trench, the trench collapsed a second time.

According to OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas, John Hermanson, “Hassell Construction knew its trenches weren’t safe, but still put its workers in harm’s way.” Due to the fact that trench cave-ins such as the one in February are completely preventable OSHA has also placed the construction company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program which often inspects employers and mandates follow-up inspections to ensure that they are complying with the law. In North Carolina, a similar incident allowed the employee to sue the employer directly and overcome the exclusivity provision of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. Woodson v. Rowland. 373 S.E.2d 674 (1988).

Read about the citations here: https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/HassellConstruction_1031127_0722_15.pdf

Original Article 7/22/15 posted on WorkersCompensation.com.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Tragic Cannery And Construction Site Deaths Highlight Need For Safety Enforcement

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Today’s post comes from guest author Catherine Stanton, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano in New York City. Sometimes it is challenging to not wonder why a system or a safety policy was such a big failure that it resulted in the death of a worker. I like what Ms. Stanton wrote in the blog post: “The failure to follow or implement proper safety procedures was a calculated risk, a terrible misstep, or a downright criminal act.” That is one of the many reasons why the blog posts that come from the firm have a general focus on worker safety. Think of safety at work as an act of prevention, because the following quote from Ms. Stanton is also accurate. “According to OSHA rules, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace.” Have a safe and productive week.

I was horrified when I recently read about a worker for a tuna company who was killed when he was cooked to death at the company’s California canning factory. According to the New York Daily News, the worker, Jose Melena, was performing maintenance in the 35-foot oven when a co-worker failed to notice he was still in the oven and turned it on to begin the steaming process of the tuna. The co-worker assumed Melena had gone to the bathroom. 

While there apparently was an effort to locate the worker, his body was not found until two hours later when the steamer was opened after it completed its cooking cycle. As an attorney, my clinical instinct shifts my focus to the mechanics of the accident and to fault. There are so many unanswered questions.  Why didn’t anyone check the machine before it was turned on? Why wasn’t the machine immediately shut down when they realized the worker was missing? As a person with feelings and emotions, I think of the horror and pain he must have gone through and the loss experienced by his family and friends as a result of his death. It is almost too awful to imagine. 

While this terrible tragedy occurred in 2012, it appears the reason that the story is currently newsworthy is that the managers were only recently charged by prosecutors in the worker’s death for violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rules. Closer to home, more recent and just as unfortunate were the cases of the construction worker in Brooklyn who fell six stories from a scaffold while doing concrete work and a restaurant worker who was killed in Manhattan when a gas explosion destroyed the building he was working in. 

These stories highlight why safety procedures are so important. In some cases, there are no proper safety precautions in place. In others, there are safety measures in place but they may not have been followed. In rarer cases, crimes are committed that result in workplace fatalities. The failure to follow or implement proper safety procedures was a calculated risk, a terrible misstep, or a downright criminal act. In the case of the worker who died when he fell from a scaffold, there has been speculation that he may not have been attached properly to his safety harness. In the tuna factory death, the managers were charged with violating safety regulations; they face fines as well as jail time for their acts. In the gas explosion, there are allegations that the explosion was caused by workers’ illegally tapping into the restaurant gas line to provide heat for upstairs tenants. Prosecutors were trying to determine criminality; whatever the final outcomes, it appears that in these three instances the deaths were preventable. 

According to OSHA rules, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. They must provide their employees with a workplace free of serious hazards and follow all safety and health standards. They must provide training, keep accurate records, and as of January 1, 2015, notify OSHA within eight hours of a workplace fatality or within 24 hours of any work-related impatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.  

While this may seem like a small step, anything that results in creating higher standards for employers or encouraging them to keep safety a priority is always a good thing. These three examples are only a small percentage of the workplace deaths that occur each year. While not every death is preventable, everyone is entitled to go to work and expect to leave safely at the end of their shifts.  

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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