Suppose you are hurt at work or while performing job duties offsite. What should you do? For most Nebraska employees, filing a workers’ compensation claim is their first course of action. 

Workers’ compensation insurance provides essential benefits to employees who experience work-related injuries or medical conditions. However, you must apply for workers’ compensation promptly. Besides costing precious time, making an error in the paperwork also jeopardizes your eligibility for Nebraska workers’ compensation benefits. 

The attorneys of Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf, & Lathrop want more than to inform you of your rights. Our mission is to serve your best interests so you get the highest compensation possible for your injuries. Get help in your time of need by scheduling your free consultation with us by calling (402) 241-5020.

Step 1: Address Urgent Health Concerns

Some workplaces have healthcare staff on site who handle first aid for minor injuries. They might refer you to a doctor if you need additional help or follow-up care. 

If you sustained an injury at work, call 911 or go to an emergency room for urgent medical attention. Let the hospital staff know that your injury or illness relates to your job. The attending physician should prepare a medical report for your employer.

What if your primary doctor diagnoses you with an occupational disease? Contact your employer as soon as you are made aware of a work-related medical issue such as:

  • Asthma: A lung disorder characterized by difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): A lung disease associated with exposure to vapors, gasses, fumes, and cigarette smoke
  • Contact dermatitis: Irritated skin caused by exposure to allergic reactions, chemicals, mechanical trauma, or products made from living organisms (such as vaccines or cancer treatments)
  • Musculoskeletal disorders: Repetitive injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)

Some occupational disorders develop over time. You can qualify for compensation if your job duties contribute to a condition or worsen a health problem you already have.

Step 2: Report Your Injury or Medical Condition

Notify your supervisor as soon as possible. Your employer should notify his or her insurance carrier and provide information on choosing a primary doctor for your injury.

You can receive emergency treatment when you need it. Otherwise, you must give your employer the name of your current primary doctor. Once you have selected a physician, return the Choice of Doctor form to your employer.

If you change doctors for any reason during your treatment for your work-related condition, you must inform your employer. Failure to meet these requirements could affect your eligibility for medical bill reimbursement. 

Step 3: Comply While You Wait for Your Benefits

A 7-day waiting period applies to some wage replacement benefits. After this period, your benefits begin on the 8th calendar day of your disability. If you qualify for temporary or permanent disability payments, you will be paid for the waiting period 6 weeks after your accident.

Keep your doctor’s appointments and follow your treatment regimen. Skipping visits or ignoring your physician’s advice could send the message that you are not as unwell as you claim. The workers’ compensation board can delay or reject claims when there are liability disputes. 

Step 4: Develop Your Personalized Return-to-Work Plan

Return-to-work (RTW) services are voluntary rehabilitation benefits designed to get employees back to work after sustaining injuries and occupational medical conditions.

You will play an active role in developing your objectives. You might have to attend meetings and evaluations with a vocational counselor to determine your next step. Your RTW plan could include:

  • Training
  • New or adapted work duties
  • A change in position

The vocational section of the court will review your plan. If approved, specific expenses like those listed below will be covered by your employer, his or her insurer, or the court trust fund:

  • Weekly benefits
  • Medical expenses
  • Mileage reimbursement
  • Tuition
  • School supplies
  • Housing

The fund does not cover internet fees, clothing, or child care. The following section will discuss what you can do if your RTW plan is not approved or you face other issues regarding your workers’ comp claim. 

Appealing Denied Claims

Getting the benefits you deserve can be challenging. The attorneys of Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf, & Lathrop can assist if there is a disagreement regarding your workers’ compensation claim. 

Solutions could include:

  • Speaking to your vocational counselor about revisions to your RTW plan
  • Requesting voluntary mediation with a court mediator to resolve disputes
  • Filing a court motion to request judicial approval for your RTW plan or rejected workers’ compensation claim
  • Contacting your employer or his or her insurer to discuss your rights
  • Settling claims in an informal dispute resolution meeting 
  • Reporting unfair claims practices to the Nebraska Department of Insurance
  • Seeking an independent medical exam from a neutral party to clarify the state of your medical condition

You can go before the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court without legal counsel. However, you will be held to “the same standards, laws, and rules as attorneys.” An experienced law firm that knows court procedures and statutes can ensure your case is skillfully appealed. 

Seeking Additional Compensation and Death Benefits

How and why did the work injury occur? The answer to these questions could determine whether you qualify for compensation beyond what your workers’ compensation offers. For example, suppose you were hurt when a machine malfunctions due to a factory defect – or that someone intentionally harmed you. 

Workers’ comp benefits are not based on fault, while personal injury lawsuits revolve around liability laws. For instance, a machine manufacturer might be liable for the injuries caused by the defective product. 

Personal injury lawsuits hold the at-fault party responsible for damages, such as:

  • Property damage
  • Lost wages and diminished ability to earn wages
  • Medical bills
  • Costs of future medical treatment and rehabilitation
  • Pain and suffering

In 2022, there were 57 fatal occupational injuries in Nebraska. Close relatives can apply for workers’ compensation death benefits. Spouses and qualifying dependents are eligible for survivor benefits and funeral costs. 

Workers’ compensation differs from Social Security and other programs offering survivors benefits. Suppose your loved one died due to the negligence of a third party, such as a subcontractor or defective product manufacturer. In that case, you may have a potential wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault individual or company.

Wrongful death claims can include damages for non-economic losses such as lost companionship, diminished quality of life, and pain and suffering.

Whether to pursue compensation through your employer’s insurance or by means of a personal injury lawsuit is an important decision. Our legal representatives can give you the information you need to choose. Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf, & Lathrop’s representatives are available 24/7 to schedule your free case review. 

Start Protecting Your Rights Today 

The path to receiving your workers’ compensation benefits can seem long and full of potential pitfalls. Yet, professional advice can help you avoid time-consuming mistakes and delays, whether it’s about an occupational injury or a catastrophic injury that happened while you were on the job.

First, you need to know your rights. Then, you need to take action to protect your financial future. At Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf, & Lathrop, our experienced lawyers can guide you every step of the way.

As soon as you are injured, before even filing a claim, you can turn to us. And if your claim was rejected, there may still be a way to get your work comp benefits. To find out more, send us a message or call (402) 241-5020 to schedule your free consultation.

by Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop
Last updated on - Originally published on

Posted in: Job-related Injuries