Nebraska has enacted key procedural reforms to its workers compensation statute that will benefit injured workers. Nebraska bucked a nationwide assault on the rights of injured workers. Among the positive reforms passed by Nebraska are:
The new law will also allow trials by video conference if both parties agree.
A. Elimination of the three-judge review panel: Appeals from the trial court level in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation court are heard by a panel of three other workers’ comp court judges before they are heard in the Court of Appeals. In Fiscal 2010, trial judges in the comp court issued 300 decisions of which 71 were appealed to the review panel . Only 21 were appealed up to the Court of Appeals/Supreme Court level. Eliminating the review panel will benefit workers because it will shorten the time defendants can delay payment of benefits based on appeals of fact questions. As it stands now, parties are guaranteed a free appeal to the Review Panel. That review panel normally takes 6-8 months to decide an appeal after the trial court decision is handed down the original decision. After the review panel, parties can appeal to the Nebraska Court of Appeals. However if a party is appealing a fact question, the other party can file for summary affirmance under Neb. Ct. R. App. P. 2-107 and dispose of the case quickly.
Under the new law, parties making appeals on fact questions should have those appeals snuffed out on summary affirmance, thus shortening the typical appellate process in the comp court.
B. Trials by video conference: The new law will also allow trials by video conference if both parties agree. This is a positive development for workers who were injured in Nebraska and have moved out of state or workers who live out of state but work for Nebraska-based trucking companies. Injured workers are often in dire financial straits and it is hard for them to afford to come back to Nebraska for trial. This reform will hopefully reduce litigation expenses for injured workers.