Tag Archives: Nebraska

What is an accident in workers’ compensation?

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Accidents happen is a common refrain. Most people believe that an accident is something that happens suddenly and was caused by carelessness. But nothing is quite that simple in the world of workers’ compensation.

Nebraska law defines an accident as happening suddenly and violently, being unexpected and having objective symptoms. Suddenly violently means that an injury 1) happens at a definite time 2) stops employment and 3) the employee stops work.

This definition can cover all sorts of injures that might not be considered an accident by a lay person.

Examples of such cases are: (1) carpal tunnel from repeated use of hands, (2) rotator cuff shoulder injuries from repeated use of arms above the shoulder, (3) skin conditions from repeated exposure to chemicals, dust or heat, (4) blood clotting from long periods of sitting, (5) heart attack and stroke from unusually heavy exertion, (6) lung diseases from exposure to chemicals, grain dust and cement dust, (7) cancer from exposure to chemical or substance known to be carcinogens (8) death from a work related disease, (9) mental health disease caused by long term pain from a work related injury, disease or condition.

In cases that aren’t thought about as “accidents” injured workers may not be clear in relating their symptoms to their work. There could also be confusion over the exact date of an injury. Some employers may even be confused about what happened – or if they acting in bad faith they may try to discipline an employee for not reporting the “accident” in a prompt manner. Injured workers can end up losing their job and or having their claim denied because they don’t understand what accident means in workers’ compensation law.

Nebraska workers facing such challenges should contact a lawyer if they suffer from a disease or condition from work activity or environment mental factors. You may be entitled to benefits becuase Nebraska Workers compensation benefits are not limited to sudden accidents. You may also have a case for wrongful termination if you were fired for reporting a work accident.

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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Injury cases during a gender transition

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A gender transition adds another wrinkle to an injury case

A work injury or injury caused someone else’s negligence can cause many complications. But what happens when an injury case comes up during when the accident victim is involved in a gender transition or has changed genders?

Every injury claim is different. A gender transition raises some unique issues in an injury case, but those issues are manageable and need not hurt a case with good communication between an attorney and client.

Here are a few issues about representing transgender individuals in injury cases that have come up in my experience.

Why is a gender transition relevant to an injury claim?

In short, an injury claimant gives up a lot of privacy when they make a claim. The Rules of Civil Discovery give insurance companies a lot of power to go through a claimant’s medical history. Some studies have shown a relation to spinal fractures and the hormones used in male to female transitions. In a case involving a back injury involving a man changing genders, the insurer may try to pin the cause of a fracture on hormones used in a gender transtion rather than an injury.

Many injury claims involve either a mental injury or a claim for pain and suffering. These claims can open up discovery about a claimant’s mental condition. Some, but not all transgender individuals, suffer from gender dysphoria which is anxiety or mental distress over a person’s gender identity. Again if a transgender individual is claiming mental distress from an injury, an insurer may try to shift that mental distress onto the gender dysphoria rather than the injury.

But many people, whether transgender or cisgender, have some preexisting physical and/or mental health conditions that could complicate an injury claim. Transgender individuals just have some conditions that are unique to them.

Attorneys for insurance companies frequently ask injury victims if they have used another name in the past. This question is asked to discover things like previous accidents, medical care and experience with the legal system. It’s not unusual for women to have a maiden name and a married name. In the case of a person who changed genders, the prior names question can reveal the individual changed genders.

Protecting privacy and dignity in litigation

Just because an injury claimant loses a lot of privacy in litigation, doesn’t mean they lose all privacy. Questions, whether in writing or oral can not be “unreasonably embarrassing”. If question are unreasonably embarrassing, an attorney can move for what is called a protective order to limit questioning. Discovery in an injury case gives insurance companies access to all sorts of information. But not all information about an individual may be relevant in their court case  An attorney can file a motion in limine to protect private details about a client’s life, like a gender transition, that might not be relevant to their claim from a jury.

In Nebraska and most states, motions in limine, may not be helpful to claimant’s in workers’ compensation cases because cases are heard by judges rather than juries. In other words, the finder of fact is going to know all sorts of things about a claimant that might not have anything to do with their work injury. In my experience, judges in the Nebraska workers’ compensation court do a good job of screening out irrelevant details in deciding cases. A gender transition may be of little relevance to a workers’ compensation claim. 

The importance of a trusting attorney-client relationship

Transgender individuals have unique issues in injury cases, but like any other client a trusting attorney-client relationship is key to a good case outcome. Communications between a client and attorney are almost always confidential. Part of the reason for that privilege is that client’s need to tell attorneys things they wouldn’t tell their co-workers, friends or even family. When it comes to issues of gender identity and gender transition, a workers’ compensation or personal injury attorney needs to know about those issues early in a case so they can effectively advocate for their transgender client. As an attorney, I don’t want to find out for the first time at my client’s deposition that they are undergoing a gender transition Even routine matters like be kept up to date on a name change can help an attorney update medical releases so they can update medical records.

Effective advocacy in an injury claim isn’t just getting a good case outcome, it also means protecting the privacy and dignity of the individual during the litigation process. Transgender clients should feel comfortable communicating about issues with gender identity with their attorney, so their attorney can protect their interests during litigation.

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.

This entry was posted in Nebraska, personal injury, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , .

Worker safety vs. civil rights laws ?

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A bank teller window protected by bulletproof glass

Recently I noticed that the two bank branches where I bank have implemented security measures that would improve workplace safety for their employees. One bank branch put in a clear glass wall to protect tellers while the other bank branch is locked and requires customers to call at the door to be let in to the bank.

The two banks deserve credit for increasing employee safety, but does increased security at banks raise public accommodation issues?

“Banking while black”, a shorthand phrase describing the denial of service of African-Americans at financial institutions, has drawn media attention recently.  Is there a way to reconcile two important interests – workplace safety and public accommodation or  civil rights laws  — that might be in conflict?

At first glance, I don’t see why increased security at banks should conflict with public accommodation laws.

How security at banks promotes workplace safety

I have been writing about retail worker safety for a few years and bank tellers are particularly vulnerable in bank robberies. A study by the Indiana Department of Labor found that glass barriers were one effective way to protect retail workers, like bank tellers, from violence. Even if a bank teller is fortunate enough to avoid physical injury in a robbery, they are still vulnerable to mental trauma. Mental injuries are particularly troubling because bank tellers, like all workers besides certain workers involved in public safety, have no coverage for purely mental injuries under Nebraska workers’ compensation law.

Workers could bring a negligence case which could be part of the impetus for banks putting in increased security measures at their branches.

But security measures can have downsides. Anybody who has been delayed at a TSA checkpoint can attest to that fact, but security can also raise public accommodation issues.

Public accommodation laws and “banking while black”

African-Americans in Ohio, Florida and Washington have reported being unable to complete financial transactions at banks due to their race. A 40-something professionally dressed white male, like me, shouldn’t have a problem being let into a locked bank branch. It might be different if I were a person of color.

In Nebraska being hassled or refused service by a financial institution on the basis of race would run afoul our state’s civil rights laws. It would also run afoul federal civil rights laws as well as potentially leading to cases for breach of contract and interference with contractual rights.

In the Ohio, Florida and Washington cases, physical entry into the bank branch has not been an issue. The issue has been the inability to complete a transaction despite meeting the requirements of the financial institution such as having an account and or having proper identification. For now, it doesn’t appear that physical security at a bank has been used to deny service based on race. The problem of banking while black appears to be one of applying procedures differently to the detriment of African-Americans based on their race. I hope that lessons learned by banks in cases about applying procedures differently to African-Americans can be implemented into how banks apply heightened security at their branches.

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.

This entry was posted in Nebraska, public accommodation, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , .

Three “mega” issues with “mega” claims

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An increase in driving jobs and use of mobile devices has lead to more “mega” workers’ compensation claims.

The cost of workers compensation insurance and the total number of work injuries has been in a long-term decline as industrial jobs decrease and service jobs increase.

But even as overall claims and costs decline, the workers’ compensation insurance industry is focusing on higher value “mega”  claims involving serious or fatal injuries. These claims often involve auto accidents which are made more prevalent by the 1) increase in delivery jobs through online commerce and 2) the expansion of mobile technologies that turn vehicle into mobile offices. (I drafted the first two paragraphs of this post on my IPhone in my car at a car wash)

The increased focus on so-called mega claims will likely bring increased attention to litigation over 1) when an injury arises out of and in the course and scope of employment 2) employee fault and so-called safety violations and 3) fights over how much an insurer/employer should be paid back when they paid workers’ compensation benefits for an injury that was the fault of a third-party. In legalese, this is called a subrogation interest.

Arising out and in the course and scope of employment

For an injury to be covered by workers’ compensation, it has to take place within the time and spatial boundaries of work and the injury has to be caused by a risk related to employment. At least under Nebraska law, the issue depends on the facts of the case. The Nebraska Court of Appeals recently heard oral arguments in a workers’ compensation case involving the survivor of a sheriff’s deputy who was killed in a car accident on his way home from work.

Normally such work would not be covered under workers compensation under the so-called going and coming rule. But in this case the sheriff’s deputy was talking to another deputy who was covering the next shift about a work-related event when accident occurred. The family of the employee argued that since the employee was talking on their cell phone about work with a coworker when the accident happened, that the accident should be covered by workers compensation. In that case the trial court disagreed.

I agree with the family.  Mobile technology is changing the scope of what constitutes the workplace. It also changes expectations for when an employee is expected to be working. Covering employees injured offsite and/or off the clock while using mobile technology by workers compensation adapts workers compensation to a modern workplace.

Safety violations

Using mobile devices in moving vehicles poses safety risks. Employers have the discretion to make reasonable safety rules. In some cases, violation of a safety rule gives employers to paying workers compensation in Nebraska. Many other states have similar rules. In a recent Virginia case, serious injuries to a bus driver injured in a motor vehicle accident were found not to be covered by workers’ compensation because the driver was violating an employer rule requiring that he wear a seat belt. A death or serious caused by a worker who was texting or emailing while driving in violation of company rules on would be vulnerable to being dismissed in Nebraska.

Third Party cases

Many cases involving auto accidents on the job involve the negligence of a third party that is neither the fault of the employee or employer. In such a case, the employer has a right to be paid back for workers’ compensation benefits out of any recovery from that third party minus some attorney fee. This is called a subrogation interest. Nebraska law allows a court to equitably determine the amount of the subrogation interest.

But Nebraska courts have taken a view of equitable subrogation in third party cases that is favorable to employers. The fact that an employer deceased the value of the personal injury case by aggressive defense of the workers’ compensation claim  does not given courts the authority to reduce an employer’s subrogation interest. Nebraska courts have also held that giving employers robust repayment rights in third party cases effects the purpose of the workers compensation act because it encourages the prompt payment of benefits.

 

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.

This entry was posted in Nebraska, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , , .

Bill would expand job search exemption for laid off workers receiving unemployment

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Some employers don’t want their laid off employees looking for work

Some unemployed workers could be exempted from job search requirements under the Nebraska Employment Security Act if a bill being considered by the Nebraska legislature passes.

LB 428 introduced by State Senator Curt Friesen, would give the Commissioner of Labor the authority to exempt some workers on highway and street construction jobs from job searches as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits. The bill would expand the exemption from job search requirements for workers on layoffs who have an expectation of returning to work.

Nebraska requires laid off workers to make five job search contacts per week and one contact a day as  a condition for receiving unemployment benefits. Businesses support the reduction in unemployment taxes  brought about by policies such as tough job search requirements. But those job search requirements have had unintended consequences.

In another state with robust job search requirements for unemployed workers, Wisconsin, many employers in the construction industry complained about the job search requirements. They argued that the job search requirements made it harder to retain employees who traditionally collect unemployment benefits while being laid off over the winter.

Requiring workers on a seasonal layoff to look for work gives other employers the chance to “recruit” employees. Construction employers in Nebraska frequently complain of a worker shortage, so employee turnover encouraged by job search requirements would make that problem worse.

If you spend any time reading HR Twitter you know that “talent” recruitment and retention is frequently discussed. Setting aside the obvious solution of increasing wages, HR folks like to talk about creative ways to retain employees. Hence perks like ping pong tables in break rooms and casual dress codes.

Traditionally employers were usually the only way to obtain good health insurance, so workers stay in their  jobs to keep their health insurance even if the working conditions are poor.

There are also more coercive talent “retention” tactics such as non-compete agreements that are being increasingly absued by employers to the point that even some Republicans  are introducing bills to address the issue on a federal level.

In addition to reducing taxes, tough job search requirements are supposed to increase the size of the labor market by discouraging receiving unemployment benefits. But policies that may benefit business interests as a whole, like job search requirements to receive unemployment benefits, may not benefit particular employers who may struggle to hold onto valuable employees.

 

 

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.

This entry was posted in Nebraska, Unemployment and tagged , , , .

Federal legislation may make it easier for injured workers to change jobs

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A Jimmy John’s franchise subjected sandwich makers to non-compete clauses

Recently introduced federal legislation could make it easier for injured and disabled workers to switch jobs without fear of having to fight a non-compete agreement.

The Freedom to Compete Act, introduced by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, would ban non-compete agreements for all employees deemed to be non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Non-exempt employees tend to be hourly and blue-collar workers.

The Freedom to Compete Act was prompted by reports of low-paid hourly workers being subjected to non-compete agreements. Most notably,  a Jimmy John’s franchise in Illinois subjected sandwich makers to non-compete agreements.

In October, I wrote about how the threat of a non-compete agreement may deter an injured worker from seeking work with another employer that is easier for them to do physically.

Non-competes in Nebraska

Nebraska outlaws restraints of trade by statute  and by case law. But non-compete agreements can be enforceable if they are reasonable in scope – for a limited time and geographic area – and ancillary to a contract of employment.

The general test of whether a non-compete is enforceable in Nebraska is that it is 1) not harmful to the public 2) not greater than necessary to protect employer’s legitimate interest and 3) not unduly harsh or oppressive to employee.

Courts in Nebraska tend to focus on whether the compete is too broad to protect the employer’s legitimate interest. A non-compete would likely to be held to be unenforceable under this clause if the employee had no personal or business contact with customers or prospective customers, didn’t know or have access to confidential information, has no skills or knowledge different than what they would have acquired in another business and the employer had no trade secrets regarding their industry.

The issue of whether a non-compete is unduly harsh is a separate issue. My feeling is that a good argument could be made that changing jobs as a way of essentially self-accommodating a work injury would fall into that category. I believe the Zweiner v. Becton-Dickinson East  case would bolster such an argument, but litigation is almost always uncertain and it can be costly. An injured worker looking at the prospect of a workers’ compensation claim may not be willing to take on a non-compete fight as well.

Other questions about Freedom to Compete

Other commentators have pointed out that Freedom to Compete could make already contentious non-compete cases even more contentious by turning them into employee classification cases.

Back in October, I wrote that non-competes need to be fixed legislatively. Some states have began introducing legislation to further limit non-compete agreements, I question whether Freedom to Compete would pre-empt state laws on non-compete clauses for white collar FLSA exempt employees. I wonder if Freedom to Compete isn’t a federal effort to head off state level reforms and even federally preempt some favorable state laws on non-compete clauses for white collar employees..

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.

This entry was posted in FLSA, Nebraska, non-compete agreements, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , , .

Bill would eliminate workers’ compensation squeeze

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An Omaha senator seeks to limit or end the time many injured workers in Nebraska receive no workers’ compensation benefits due to insurance companies unfairly interpreting Nebraska case law about when payment for temporary disability benefits end and when payment for permanent disabiliy begins.

LB 526 introduced by State. Senator Mike McDonnell would add language to Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-121 that would continue temporary disability until the later of a) any permanent disability as measured by permanent impairment for a scheduled member disability has been determined or, in the event of a claim payable under a loss of earning power basis when a loss of earning power evaluation is complete or b) 30 days after the employee has been given notice of termination.”

The bill also requires employers to provide copies of evidence used to end temporary disability and give the employees the right to a medical examination at their employer’s expense in certain circumstances when temporary disability payments are halted.

Our firm strongly supports this new bill. Roger Moore wrote a good post in 2015 about the human cost of the temporary-permanent squeeze. Last year I wrote a post about how the squeeze came about through case law.

The argument underlying the squeeze is that temporary disability ends when a doctor states a worker has plateaued medically. That means temporary disability benefits stop. But permanent disability has needs to be ascertained before permanent disability benefits start. This could mean waiting for a permanent impairment rating or it could mean waiting for an FCE, having a doctor endorse the results and then having a vocational counselor determine disability. This can take weeks or even months. If an employee isn’t working that means weeks or months without income. I think allowing insurers to exploit the gap between temporary and permanent disability is an incorrect reading of the law because doesn’t effectuate the beneficent purpose of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act to pay benefits in a timely manner to injured workers.

I also like the notice provision of the legislation. Once an injured worker starts receiving temporary disability benefits, they have some expectation that they will continue which would arguably create a constitutional property interest in continued receipt of those ongoing workers’ compensation benefits. Ending those benefits with no notice or explanation would arguably violate due process.

Critics of the legislation may point out there are cases involving multiple scheduled members that can also be paid on a loss of earning power basis which could cause uncertainty about the period of when temporary disability should continue. In such cases I believe that prompt payment of scheduled member impairments helps to eliminate the gap issue. However impairment ratings under the AMA 6th may undercompensate injured workers and be less likely to address the gap issue.

Our firm encourages our clients and others in Nebraska to contact their state senators and tell them to support LB 526. 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.

This entry was posted in Nebraska, Unicameral, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , , , .