The Nebraska workers' compensation system includes a dedicated court, and Nebraska is one of the only states to have this avenue for injured workers.
Before workers' compensation was an option in Nebraska, injured workers could only sue their employers under tort law for damages. While providing complete compensation – i.e., damages such as those for pain and suffering were available – it also required proof of negligence, and claims were often denied. For over 100 years now, injured workers have had the protection of workers' compensation laws that provide for no-fault benefits that are received quickly, and employers can avoid more expensive court challenges.
There are several different types of benefits that an injured worker is entitled to:
1. Benefits to manage or cure the injury: includes hospital, doctor, chiropractic and physical therapy costs. This also includes the costs of diagnostic testing, doctor-prescribed medicine (even if it's over-the-counter) and items like braces.
2. Compensation while temporarily disabled: These payments of two-thirds of an injured worker's average weekly wage may start after an injured worker has been off work for seven days, and usually an injured worker continues to collect payments – either for total or partial disability – while he or she is convalescing until a doctor signs off on a full return to work and/or places an injured worker at maximum medical improvement.
3. Compensation for permanent injuries: These benefits are two-thirds of an injured workers' average weekly wage (or wages earned in a 40-hour work week for part-time workers) and are available after an injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement. These benefits may be for permanent impairment to a specific body part or may be to compensate for an injured worker's loss of earning ability. This distinction depends on the type of injury. Benefits may also be partial or total, depending on the type and degree of injury.
4. Vocational rehabilitation: These are services provided under Nebraska workers' compensation law to injured workers when, as a result of a compensable injury, the injured worker is unable to perform suitable work for which he or she has previous training or experience. This may include job placement and retraining.
5. Death benefits: If a worker dies as a result of his or her injury, that worker is entitled to medical expenses as well as burial expenses up to $10,000. The deceased worker's dependents are also entitled to benefits, which vary depending on the circumstances.
If the system worked the way it was supposed to, employers (or their insurance companies) would pay injured workers, pay the medical bills, and focus on getting the worker either back to work or moving on with the best quality of life possible. The reality is that employers (and their insurance companies) don't always see eye-to-eye with doctors' opinions or treatment recommendations, or follow work restrictions. Speaking with an experienced attorney when navigating the workers' compensation system can reassure injured workers and their loved ones and make a very stressful time a little less difficult.
Do you know how to protect your rights if you are injured? We do. If you have any questions about what you are entitled to under workers' compensation law, please contact our offices immediately.