Category Archives: Workers’ Compensation. Workplace Injury

How Nebraska law shortchanges injured workers

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Workers compensation is a defined benefit that pays certain benefits for work injuries regardless of fault. But when defined benefits aren’t well-defined, injured workers get short-changed when it comes to workers compensation disability benefits.

Underpayment of benefits is already baked into Nebraska workers’ compensation law for some workers. Nebraska usually does not take overtime pay into consideration when determining disability benefits. Nebraska also caps workers’ compensation benefits at a maximum rate.

Here is the how and why fuzzy math can lead injured workers can get underpaid benefits in Nebraska. I think you can break down the reasons that workers get underpaid into disputes over wage rates and the time periods they are entitled to benefits

Wage rate

Average weekly wage and abnormally low weeks

Permanent and temporary disability benefits are controlled by the average weekly wage under the Nebraska Workers Compensation Act. The average weekly wage is usually based on an average of the past 26 weeks of wages minus “abnormally low weeks”. What’s an abnormally low week? There isn’t a hard and fast rule. For the purposes of permanent disability Nebraska workers compensation law assumes a 40 hour work week. This assumption helps address underpayment issues for permanent disability.

But no such assumption exists for temporary disability under Nebraska workers compensation law. So insurers and claims administrators have wide latitude to underpay temporary benefits. This is particularly harmful as workers who are temporarily disabled are often entirety unable to work.

Shift differentials

Workers who work evening and overnight shifts often get paid shift differential on top of base pay. Particularly if a worker works a combination of day and evening shifts, workers compensation benefits tend not to account for shift differential.

Time Period

The gap between temporary and permanent disability

Nebraska law is unclear as to when temporary disability ends and when permanent disability ends. Not only does this mean injured workers can go months or weeks without benefits, it also means that workers can be underpaid benefits. Usually this underpayment is accomplished by shortening the period of temporary disability paid.

Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-119

Under Nebraska law, the first week of disability after a work injury is not compensated unless the disability lasts for more than six weeks. This tends to happen with injuries that don’t lead to quantifiable impairments. Sometimes, employees under pressure from employers, will be released to work too soon. Insurers and claims administrators view premature returns to work as an excuse to deny temporary disability because they employee is already at maximum medical improvement

The bottom line on underpayment of workers’ compensation benefits

If employees take these claims to court, they can often win back due benefits. These monetary amounts are meaningful for injured workers, but they may not always be cost-effective for an attorney to pursue.

In wage and hour cases under Nebraska and federal law successful claimants are awarded attorney fees that can be much greater than the lost wages collected. These fees encourage lawyers to take these cases.

But under Nebraska workers compensation law a successful claimant needs the court to find there was no reasonable controversy in law or fact for the court to award attorney fees and penalties under Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-125. This is a difficult standard. This difficult standard is made more difficult over disputes over average weekly wage because average weekly wage is a question of law and fact.

In short, Nebraska workers compensation law gives insurers and claims administrators wide latitude to underpay injured workers. But since under Nebraska law it is very difficult to win attorney fees in under Nebraska law, insurers and claims administrators have little to fear in the way of penalties and attorney fees if a court rules they underpaid benefits to an injured worker.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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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Kansas Supreme Court Decides Whether Undocumented Immigrants Are Entitled To Workers’ Compensation Benefits

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Are undocumented immigrants entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Nebraska?

Recently, the Kansas Supreme Court examined the same question that has been previously answered by the Nebraska courts.

The short answer is, yes. Undocumented workers are entitled to most workers’ compensation benefits under Nebraska law. The exception is that undocumented immigrants are not entitled to the vocational rehabilitation benefit because the worker is not legally permitted to be in the country.

To some people, Nebraska law and this Kansas decision make sense, but unfortunately many people believe that undocumented workers should not be entitled to work comp. This argument fails for the following reasons:

  1. If someone is injured at work and needs to seek medical treatment, it must be paid somehow. If it is not paid by workers’ compensation (even though the injury occurred at work), the cost of that treatment will be passed to the medical providers and the general-public. The employer will get away scot-free while everyone else would share the burden of mounting healthcare costs.
  2. Employers should not get a benefit of hiring undocumented workers over citizens or documented workers. As stated above, if the employer does not have to pay workers’ compensation benefits for an injured, undocumented worker, the employer will be encouraged to hire undocumented workers over others as cost-savings. It is the employer’s responsibility to hire documented workers, but if it means the cost-savings of not having to pay work comp benefits, you can bet that employer will try to hire undocumented workers over others.
  3. Similar to the previous reason, employers would be discouraged from taking safety measures to ensure the safety of its workers if it knows that it won’t be required to pay for undocumented workers’ injuries. This would make the workplace more dangerous for all workers.
  4. Regardless of citizenship, an injured worker has an inalienable right to be treated for work injuries simply based on the fact that his/her job has made money for that employer. This is the whole point of the workers’ compensation system: to provide a quick (relatively speaking) and efficient way to get medical treatment and compensation for any worker that is injured while making money for that employer. Without the beneficiary of the work that cause the injury being required to pay work comp, this burden would inevitably be pushed to tax payers in one form or another. In other words, taxpayers should certainly want undocumented immigrants to get workers’ compensation benefits.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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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The Safety Hazard Right Under Your Wheels

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The collapse of the Interstate Highway-35W bridge over the Mississippi River killed 13 people and highlighted the safety hazards related to poor infrastructure. But most drivers face a less dramatic, but no less dangerous, hazard:

Potholes.

According to www.pothole.info, nearly 1/3 of the 33,000 annual truck and auto fatalities are related to poor road conditions. At least 27 percent of the major roads in the United States have been rated to be in poor condition. Though potholes are regarded as a problem – with good reason – in cold-weather states like Nebraska and Iowa, the worst road conditions in the country are in the warm-weather areas like the Bay Area, southern California, and Tucson, Arizona.

Bumpy roads combined with poor suspension can even lead to back injuries. This is especially true for over-the-road-truck drivers who also face health problems from lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and poor diet due to the demands of trucking. Drivers for Crete Carrier Corporation, Shaffer Trucking, Werner and K&B Transportation usually must litigate their workers’ compensation claims in Nebraska. Fortunately, Nebraska would deem a back injury from driving over a pothole to be compensable, even if it were combined with a pre-existing condition. Other states have stricter causation standards that could preclude a driver from collecting benefits for such an injury.

Truckers who, according to one poll, supported President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton 75 percent to 25 percent, may have some relief from rough road conditions coming. President Trump has announced that he plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, and he has appointed a task force that includes high-level advisers and his influential son-in-law Jared Kushner. Some observers in the trucking industry have raised concerns that the Trump infrastructure plan could lead to more private and toll roads; however, everyone will get some benefit if road conditions improve within the United States.

Another forgotten piece of infrastructure is trucking parking, which I will address in an upcoming post.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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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