Tag Archives: September 11th

How First Responders Would Be Treated if 9/11 Happened in Nebraska

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Sept. 11 was tragic for the victims who died at ground zero after the attacks on the World Trade Center. But, the lasting effects of the dust and particulates that filled the air after the collapse of the towers have caused ongoing health issues for numerous other victims: first responders who were not killed in the initial collapse of the buildings.

Fortunately, the federal government came to the aid of these first responders by enacting the James Zadroga Act, which provides free testing and treatment for first responders of the 9/11 attacks. However, had this act not been enacted, how would these workers, who have developed health problems from working at ground zero, have been treated under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act?

First, the ailments developed by the first responders would be treated as occupational diseases under Nebraska law. If the disease or ailment of the first responder is shown to be a result of the exposure while working at ground zero, the treatment and indemnity would be covered like any other Nebraska Workers’ Compensation claim.

If the first responder died as a result of the occupational disease, under Nebraska law, the surviving spouse would be entitled to death benefits under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.

The biggest gap in workers’ compensation coverage under Nebraska law for occupational diseases occurs when the injured worker (or in this case, the first responder) does not develop symptoms or the disease until later in life. In a situation like that, if the occupational disease first manifests (or becomes an injury) after the injured worker has retired for unrelated reasons, the injured worker would be left without indemnity benefits. In other words, the injured worker could get no workers’ compensation money if he or she was retired when the disease showed up. Further, if the injured worker dies as a result of the occupational disease, but is retired at the time the disease becomes an injury, his or her surviving spouse would not be entitled to any money either.  See Olivotto v. DeMarco Bros. Co., 273 Neb. 672 (2007): the widow whose husband died from asbestos exposure was not entitled to indemnity because her husband had been retired for 23 years when mesothelioma manifested.

Thus, if 9/11 happened in Nebraska, first responders who develop an occupational disease later in life might not be fully covered under workers’ compensation laws without some sort further government intervention like the James Zadroga Act.

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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9-11: 15 Years Remembered

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What have we learned, and what is the progress we have made toward helping those who help others?

As we remember and celebrate that fateful day, we should continue to celebrate and protect those who risk their lives to help others but who continue to live with the mental and emotional effects when faced with such tragic events encountered in responding to the call to serve.

In Nebraska, we have recognized that with tragic events come the effects to some who just can’t mentally and emotionally get past those events. We have garnered some protections for those first responders whose job it is to serve when emergency matters require it.

First responders have a specific definition as set forth in Nebraska Revised Statute 48-101.01, but essentially if a person serves as an officer, fireman or medical emergency personnel who is called to an emergency response situation, then that person has some workers’ compensation protections.

Personal injury now “includes mental injuries and mental illness unaccompanied by physical injury for an employee who is a first responder” if that person suffers from PTSD, depression, anxiety, mood disorder, panic attacks, reactionary diversion, neurotic disorder, etc.

One must establish “that the employee’s employment conditions causing the mental injury or mental illness were extraordinary and unusual in comparison to the normal conditions of the particular employment” in which they serve.  What is usual is constantly being debated and disputed, but an event causing significant bodily injury or death is not usual in the eyes of the courts.

What is not covered or considered compensable are “mental injuries and mental illness arising out of and in the course of employment unaccompanied by physical injury … if they result from any event or series of events which are incidental to normal employer and employee relations, including, but not limited to, personnel actions by the employer such as disciplinary actions, work evaluations, transfers, promotions, demotions, salary reviews, terminations” or going through the legal process in unrelated matters.

Sometimes employers will retaliate against employees who claim work injuries. Though demotions, write-ups and post-injury terminations aren’t compensable through workers’ compensation, there could be a retaliation or disability discrimination claim. First responders who believe they might be being retaliated against should also reach out to the NAPE/AFSCME, IAFF or FOP representative immediately to help preserve their employment.

We have come a long way in the 15 years since 9-11 in providing protections and workers’ compensation coverage to first responders who make it their job to serve and protect. But what about those who were working and saw and experienced this tragedy who are not first responders? They continue to not be covered for their mental and emotional effects. On this anniversary date, as we remember those who served, we need to continue to fight for everyone who encounters tragic events in the course and scope of their employment and suffers mental illness or conditions, but do not suffer a physical injury. They need the protections workers’ compensation coverage can provide, just like first responders.

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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