Last week we wrote about legislation that will go into effect on September 1 that will make it harder to collect medical debt related to a workers’ compensation claim. On the same day, legislation will go into effect that will make it easier for the families of foreign workers to collect benefits for workers killed on the job.
The new law amends Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-122 to streamline the ability for a foreign dependent to proceed with litigation on behalf of a deceased family member. In other words, if a family member dies in a work accident, but his/her family does not live in the United States, the foreign dependent is able to collect workers’ compensation benefits for the death. In the past, however, in order to proceed with litigation, the dependents and their lawyer would need to get approval from a foreign consul of the country where the dependents lived. This was difficult and cumbersome to get feedback from a counsel that had little to nothing to do with a Nebraska workers’ compensation claim. The process could be even more difficult for Cuban nationals whose country doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the United States
As a result, this statute was amended so that a lawyer may simply proceed to represent the foreign dependent even if the foreign consul does not consent or fails to respond to the request for consent to the representation and litigation. The only potential pitfall to this bill is that there is a potentially expensive bonding requirement. But our firm has experience with setting up conservatorships that could help get around the bonding requirement,
The collections bill and foreign dependents bill both passed as part of LB 418 that passed the Legislature 35-0. Our firm was happy to work on this legislation, but this legislation was largely passed because of the outcome of the 2018 Legislative elections. Senator Cavanaugh, who sponsored the bill won a close election. Due to the election outcome, Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln was also elected to chair the Business and Labor Committee that handles most legislation related to workers’ compensation. Senator Hansen’s leadership was helpful in getting passing this legislation.
A legislature friendly to workers is no guarantee in 2021. Worker-friendly Kate Bolz will be term-limited out in a district that isn’t particularly friendly for workers in southeast Lincoln. Grand Island Senator Dan Quick, a union electrician who was hurt at work, could face a tough re-election challenge. Pay attention to state legislative races, support pro-worker candidates, vote and tell your friends and family to vote as well.