No matter what your profession, there is always a chance you could suffer catastrophic injuries or be killed on the job. This happens to thousands of Nebraskans each year, but many of them do not receive the full workers’ compensation benefits to which they or their families are entitled.
When you suffer a workplace injury, your employer and their insurance company may attempt to save money by acting in their best interests instead of yours. Unfortunately, this can leave you suffering physically and financially.
The Nebraska workers’ compensation attorneys at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C., have helped many injured workers whose claims have been denied. It’s our job to work with the insurance companies and state workers’ comp officials to see to it that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Types of Workplace Injuries
The types and severity of injuries you can suffer at work depend on your job. Office workers may struggle with relatively minor issues, like back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome, while those who perform physical labor are at risk for more severe injuries. Keep in mind that occupational illnesses are considered job-related injuries as well.
Some of the more common workplace injuries and illnesses include:
- Sprains and strains
- Vision or hearing loss
- Respiratory diseases
- Fractured or broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Joint, tendon and ligament damage
- Back and spinal cord injuries
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The benefits you’re entitled to depend on a variety of factors, including how you were hurt, the severity of your injuries, and whether the injuries are temporary or permanent. Under Nebraska Workers’ Compensation law, you may be able to receive some or all of the following benefits:
- Wage-Loss: You can receive total or partial disability benefits depending on the severity of your injury and how it’s affected your ability to work.
- Medical Bills: If you’ve been hurt at work, your employer is responsible for any “reasonable” medical expenses like doctors’ bills, medication, and equipment.
- Permanent/Partial Loss of Member or Body as a Whole: These benefits are awarded if your injury caused you to partially or completely lose the use of a body part. They may also be awarded if you suffer a permanent loss or impairment to your whole body.
- Temporary Partial Benefits: These apply to employees who were injured and are able to work in some capacity but not the same as before the accident.
- Vocational Rehab: If the injury results in a disability that prevents you from returning to your regular job, you may receive benefits for vocational rehabilitation and training for a new position.
- Death: If the injured employee suffers wrongful death, the surviving spouse and/or children are entitled to death benefits and up to $6,000 for funeral expenses.
Common Causes of Workplace Injuries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were roughly 2.9 million nonfatal work injuries reported in 2015. That works out to nearly 8,000 injuries each day. Some of the most common causes of work injuries are:
- Machine entanglement
- Workplace violence
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Exposure to hazardous materials
- Repetitive motion
- Falling tools or objects
- Defective equipment or faulty products
Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Laws
Employers in Nebraska are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for all full-time, part-time, seasonal temporary, and minor employees. There are some employees who are not covered by workers’ comp. These include:
- Railroad workers, federal employees, independent contractors and some volunteers
- Domestic servants
- Agricultural workers
- People who are self-employed, or are sole proprietors, partners or limited liability employees
- Officers of companies who own more than 25 percent of that company’s stock
- Executive officers of nonprofit organizations who make less than $1,000 a year
Aside from those mentioned above, all other employees are entitled to Nebraska workers’ comp benefits if they are injured on the job. There are, however, requirements that need to be met. To receive benefits, the following must be true:
- The illness or injury was a direct result of employment and occurred while the worker was on the job
- The illness or injury was not caused by the employee’s willful negligence
- The employment was typical of the employer’s trade, business or profession AND the injury happened in Nebraska;
- OR the employment was principally based in Nebraska
- OR the employment contract and employer were based in Nebraska
This is just a brief overview of state law. Which benefits you’ll be able to receive and how much they’re worth depends on your specific situation. If you’ve been injured at work, it’s a good idea to read more about Nebraska’s workers’ compensation laws and what to do after a workplace injury.
What to do if Your Employer Denies Benefits
Despite what the law says, there are employers who will refuse to give you the benefits you deserve. If this happens to you, your first step should be to call the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court at 800-599-5155 and file a report.
Remember, according to the statute of limitations, you have two years from the date the injury occurred to file a lawsuit. If your employer refuses to pay or your benefits have been denied, the best way to protect yourself is by hiring a workers’ compensation attorney.
At Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C., we only handle employee workers’ comp claims. We will do everything we can to ensure that you receive the benefits you need to pay the bills and take care of your family. We offer free consultations to assess your case and discuss your situation. Call to speak to an Omaha workers’ comp attorney at 402-241-5020 or Sarpy County workers’ comp attorney at 402-241-8214, or contact us online.
Commonly Asked Questions About Work Injury Claims
Who Will Pay Me If I Get Injured at Work?
Loss of income is one of the biggest challenges facing workers who get hurt on the job. Thankfully, there may be several options that can help you recoup at least a portion of your wages if an injury leaves you unable to work.
The first is workers’ compensation. Most employees in Nebraska are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured in the course of their employment. Wage loss benefits (also called indemnity benefits) are paid to the injured worker at a rate of two-thirds of the average weekly wage (subject to the state’s minimum and maximum caps on compensation benefits). Benefits are paid starting the eighth day that the worker is unable to resume employment. If the injury precludes a return to work for six weeks or more, the worker will be compensated for the first 7 days of missed work.
You should also inquire about your employer’s sick leave policy. Workers may be able to supplement workers’ compensation payments with sick leave hours or days, paid vacation, or some combination thereof.
If your employer offers long-term disability insurance to employees, you may qualify for coverage if an injury leaves you unable to work (although some policies specifically exclude injuries that occur on the job). Long-term disability insurance covers a percentage of the wages you would be earning if you could work. Workers’ comp benefits can generally be combined with long-term disability coverage, which can help you recover more of your lost income.
Finally, you may be able to bring a claim against one or more third parties if their negligence led to your work-related injury. In this scenario, you can pursue compensation for all of the current pay you have lost to date, as well as loss of earning capacity damages if the injury prevents you from working in the future.
How Long After an Injury Can You Claim Workers’ Compensation?
The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act (§ 48-137) requires workers’ compensation claims to be filed no later than 2 years after a worker is injured or killed at work or 2 years from the date of the last payment of benefits of any kind, whichever is later. Either the parties must come to an agreement concerning compensation or a petition must be filed with the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court before the 2-year time limit expires.
Although 2 years is the deadline to claim workers’ compensation, in reality you need to take action much sooner to protect your legal rights. The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act § 48-133 states that the employer should be given notice of a work injury “as soon as practicable” – ideally in writing, as this creates a report of the accident and your diligence in reporting it.
After receiving notice of a worker’s injury, an employer is required to notify its workers’ comp insurance carrier promptly. The employer or the insurer must then report the injury to the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court within 10 days.
Generally, workers’ compensation payments begin within approximately 30 days after a claim is filed. However, a dispute may arise if liability for the accident is contested. The potential for a dispute increases if there is insufficient evidence to support your claim – a situation that is more likely to arise if you wait to make a claim.
How Much Do You Get Paid for an Injury at Work?
Your workers’ compensation benefits can be divided into two different categories:
- Covered expenses
Benefits in the first category cover medical expenses related to the work injury and the cost of vocational rehabilitation. These costs should be fully covered by workers’ compensation.
The latter category comprises wage loss/indemnity benefits. How much you are paid will depend on the nature of the disability (temporary or permanent) as well as whether your injury constitutes a partial or total disability. Nebraska workers’ compensation disability benefits are distributed as follows:
- Temporary partial disability: If you are able to return to work after an injury but in a limited capacity (i.e., only working a partial day, performing light duty, etc.), you may qualify for temporary partial disability benefits. Benefits are calculated as two-thirds of the difference between what you were paid prior to the injury and the income you earn during the disability period.
- Temporary total disability: If your doctor determines that you are unable to work during your recovery from a work injury, temporary total disability benefits will pay two-thirds of your average weekly wage throughout the period of disability.
- Permanent partial loss of a member: A “member” is the term for a part of the body. If a work injury results in the loss of a use of a body part, compensation is calculated as two-thirds of the worker’s daily wages for a number of weeks determined by the statutory schedule for the type of injury.
- Permanent partial to the body as a whole: Benefits for partial disability of the whole body are calculated as two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage multiplied by the percentage of the worker’s disability as determined by a physician.
- Permanent total disability: If it is determined that your workplace injury constitutes a total disability, you will be paid two-thirds of the average weekly wage you earned before the accident.
As you can see, a host of different factors will determine how much workers’ compensation pays after a work-related injury. It is important to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer who can determine whether you qualify for partial or total disability benefits and fight for the wage loss payments you deserve.
How Do You Prove Injury at Work?
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Although you do not have to prove that someone else is at fault for your injury to receive benefits, whether an injury is work-related is a common source of disputes in workers’ compensation claims.
Employers and insurance companies alike may try to argue that an employee’s injury happened outside of work. This is especially true if the injury or accident is not reported promptly.
If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you should speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The work injury lawyers at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop can investigate and collect evidence on your behalf, including:
- Copies of the written notice you provided your employer after the workplace accident or after your injury or illness was diagnosed as work-related – some companies ask employees to fill out and submit a form documenting the accident
- Witness testimony from coworkers, bystanders, etc.
- Photos of your workplace and/or the premises where the accident occurred
- Footage from security cameras that captured the accident
- Medical records and testimony from your doctors supporting your claim of a work-related injury
Section 48-101 of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act requires that compensation be paid to workers when the “preponderance of the evidence” establishes the existence of an injury or illness “arising out of and in the course of … employment.” If the employer or workers’ comp insurer disputes your claim on the grounds that your injury did not arise out of and in the course of your employment, our lawyers can gather evidence to the contrary.
How Is a Workers’ Compensation Injury Settlement Calculated?
The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act § 48-136 recognizes the right of injured workers, employers, and workers’ compensation insurers to enter into voluntary settlements. Settlements can be paid in installments to cover costs the worker is likely to incur, such as medical expenses, wage loss, and vocational rehabilitation.
Alternatively, the payments can be consolidated into a single lump-sum settlement. Per § 48-138 of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, a lump-sum workers’ compensation settlement “shall be fixed at an amount which will equal the total sum of the probable future payments, capitalized at their present value upon the basis of interest calculated at five percent per annum with annual rests.”
Prior to accepting a lump-sum workers’ compensation injury settlement, it is important to account for all eligible expenses you may face and the disability benefits you may be due. This includes:
- Any unpaid bills for medical care and vocational rehabilitation
- The cost of future medical treatment, therapies, etc.
- Temporary or permanent disability
- Attorney fees and other legal costs
Once you accept a lump-sum settlement, you will not be able to seek additional compensation. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can calculate these costs and ensure that the settlement for a workplace injury adequately compensates you for your current and future expenses, as well as covers your lost wages and disability payments.
How Long Can You Be on Workers’ Compensation in Nebraska?
According to the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court, a worker’s employer and/or the workers’ comp insurer “is liable for all reasonable medical and hospital services, appliances, prescribed drugs, prosthetic devices, and other supplies that are necessary as the result of a work-related injury.” These medical benefits are payable throughout the course of the employee’s recovery from a work injury.
Your eligibility for wage loss benefits through workers’ compensation is more complicated. How long you receive disability benefits depends on the duration of disability:
- Total disability benefits are payable until the disability ceases (as determined by a physician); in the event of permanent total disability, benefits may be payable until the end of the worker’s life
- Partial disability benefits are payable until one of the following occurs:
- Physical examination by a physician determines that the worker is no longer partially disabled.
- 300 weeks elapses from the date you started receiving partial disability benefits (under Nebraska law, 300 weeks is the maximum length of time workers are eligible for temporary partial disability and permanent partial to the whole body benefits).
- If you suffer permanent partial disability due to the loss of a body part, the statutory schedule of injuries limits benefits to the following:
- 225 weeks for the loss of an arm
- 215 weeks for the loss of a leg
- 175 weeks for the loss of a hand
- 150 weeks for the loss of a foot
- 125 weeks for the loss of an eye
- 60 weeks for the loss of a thumb
- 50 weeks for the loss of hearing in one ear
- 50 weeks for the loss of the nose
- 35 weeks for the loss of an index finger
- 30 weeks for the loss of a big toe
- 30 weeks for the loss of a middle finger
- 25 weeks for the loss of an ear
- 20 weeks for the loss of a ring finger
- 15 weeks for the loss of a pinkie finger
- 10 weeks for the loss of one of the smaller toes
Workers’ compensation law is complicated, and employers and insurers may try to terminate a worker’s benefits prematurely. If your workers’ comp benefits are unexpectedly reduced or terminated, you should seek legal guidance as soon as possible. Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop can contest the adverse decision on your behalf.
Why Doesn’t Workers’ Comp Pay Pain and Suffering?
The purpose of workers’ compensation is to provide workers with benefits to cover the expenses and a portion of the economic losses associated with injuries on the job (as well as to get them back to work as soon as possible). In exchange, workers forfeit the right to sue employers for the full scope of damages that they would otherwise be entitled to in a personal injury claim – including pain and suffering.
Losses for pain and suffering are considered non-economic damages. Workers’ compensation laws make no provision for workers to recover non-economic damages for work-related injuries. As such, when an injured worker makes a claim for compensation, he or she gives up the right to pursue pain and suffering damages from his or her employer.
Can I Sue My Employer for an Injury on the Job?
Employers in Nebraska who carry the workers’ compensation insurance coverage required by law are immune from liability when workers are injured in the course of their employment. However, if your employer doesn’t have the required workers’ comp insurance, you can bring a claim for personal injury damages.
The work injury lawyers at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop can review the available coverage to determine if your employer has a workers’ compensation insurance policy in place. If your employer is uninsured, our attorneys can pursue full compensation for the losses you sustained as a result of the work injury.
Our team will also investigate to determine if one or more negligent third parties are responsible for the workplace accident. We may be able to bring third-party liability claims against:
- A motorist who causes an accident when you are driving a vehicle for work
- The owner of the premises where you work, if an unsafe condition on the property caused injury in the course of your job
- The maker of a defective product that fails when you are using it for work
- A contractor or subcontractor whose negligence causes you injury
The benefits available under workers’ compensation are limited by statute. You can recover compensation for all of your losses in a third-party liability claim, but you need to prove that the negligence of the party or parties at fault caused your injuries and damages.
The work injury lawyers at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop will explore all of your options for recovery and fight for maximum compensation on your behalf. Contact us today for a free case review.