Tag Archives: debt collection

The why and how of injured workers’ can protect themselves from debt collectors in Nebraska

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Two important and helpful changes to the law for injured workers and their family will take effect on August 31, 2019. One change could protect injured workers’ form debt collectors. The other change will make it easier for dependents of foreign workers who were killed at work.

Today we will write about the collections bill and next week we will post about the foreign dependents law.

The law amends Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-1,108 by prohibiting a collection agency from attempting to collect a debt if there is a case pending in the Workers’ Compensation Court and the debt is alleged to be subject to payment under a work comp injury. Nebraska has gained national infamy for aggressive debt collection practices, so this legislation provides much needed relief for injured workers.

What this means is that lawyers can assist in getting collection agencies to halt collection of medical bills that are related to the work accident and injuries. This is extra important for injured workers because often they may not be able to return to work, and if their work comp claim has been denied, it often isn’t even possible to pay the bills that the employer should have to pay in the first place.

How does the bill work? Once an injured worker is billed for treatment, he/she should contact his lawyer if that bill has not been paid. Then, the lawyer representing the injured worker must provide the collection agency with notice of the pending workers’ compensation claim. The notice must be provided, in writing, to the provider or collection agency. The initial notice must contain the provider’s name, the injured worker’s date of the injury, a description of the injury and the filing date/case number of the pending case in the Workers’ Compensation Court.

In that same notice, or within another thirty days, notice should also be given that identifies the specific debt that is related to the workers’ compensation claim. In other words, the collection agency must be able to know what bills are potentially related to the work comp claim that way they can still continue to pursue collection on any unrelated debts.

The notice must be made by personal delivery, first class mail, or by another method otherwise agreed to. What “any other method” means is that likely the parties will agree that notice via email will be enough for purposes of the statute. Once notice is received, any collection lawsuits will be stayed (halted) until the workers’ compensation claim has been finalized.

The law requires that a workers’ compensation case actually be filed in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. While an injured worker can proceed pro se or without a lawyer, the employer will likely have an attorney, so injured workers should at least consult with an attorney,

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.

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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Nebraska looks to limit debt collection in workers’ compensation claims

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Legislation in Nebraska seeks to protect injured workers’ from aggressive debt collection tactics

When an employer or insurer denies a workers’ compensation claim, debt collectors can add additional insult to injury by attempting to collect on unpaid medical bills in the claim. This problem for injured workers is particularly serious in Nebraska.

LB 418, introduced by State Senator Machaela Kavanaugh of Omaha, would solve this problem.The bill states ‘No collection agency shall attempt to collect a debt if a case is pending in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court and the debt is alleged to be subject to’ the workers’ compensation law pertaining to fee schedules and payment requirements by employers.”

This is a needed respite for injured workers in Nebraska for many reasons. First, the legislation solves the problems of civil courts not delaying collection cases where the unpaid bills are part of a workers’ compensation cases. Collection actions in civil court about workers’ compensation cases can also raise jurisdictional questions which would be clarified by this legislation.

Second, assuming an injured worker prevails in obtaining an Award in their disputed workers’ compensation case, if they have already been sued and forced to pay the full price of the medical charges in addition to paying the court filing fees and attorney fees to the collection attorneys, they cannot then recover their money paid to the collection agency.  This proposed bill will rectify this situation and help injured workers alleviate the stress and financial crisis they face.

Finally, medical debt collection practices are very aggressive in Nebraska because of inexpensive filing fees in county court. An investigation by ProPublica in 2016 and 2017 showed Nebraska courts handle nearly 80,000 collection actions involving amounts as low as $60. In similarly-populated New Mexico where court filing fees are higher, only 30,000 debt collection suits were filed.  One of the biggest collection agencies, Credit Management of Grand Island, was responsible for nearly 30,000 of those lawsuits.  Debtor’s exams are quite common.  If an injured worker misses the debtor’s exam, they can face being jailed. According to Pro Publica, one Nebraskan was jailed over missing an debtor’s examination on a $100 debt.

Our firm encourages our clients and others in Nebraska to contact their state senators and tell them to support LB 418. You can find out who your state senator is here and find their contact information here.

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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