What is Workers' Compensation?
Each state has a system to protect workers from financial ruin and hardship when injured on the job, regardless of who is at fault for the injury or death. The limits and compensation benefits vary from state to state. Nebraska's Workers Compensation Act is found at Section 48-101 et. seq.
What should I do if I am injured at work?
You must notify the employer as soon as possible following the injury or the realization that an injury has occurred. Sometimes you may be injured but able to continue working that day or even for a few days without realizing that you have been injured or need to see a doctor. You should request that a First Report of Injury be completed by your employer. Seek medical attention. It is very important that all injuries or illnesses be fully documented by medical personnel.
Am I covered?
When injuries that occur in the workplace, or that occur while furthering the business of your employer - such as traveling to a work-related appointment, you may qualify for worker's compensation benefits. If your work causes or contributes to any injury or illness, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Even a pre-existing injury or illness that is aggravated by your work may be covered.
When am I covered?
Under Nebraska law, almost every employer is required to carry workers' compensation insurance. Coverage begins on the date of hire and continues as long as you're employed. Medical benefits are payable from the first day of injury. There is a seven day waiting period for lost wages, which are paid at 2/3 of your average weekly wage.
What benefits are available?
Medical treatment, current and future lost earnings, vocational rehabilitation, and death benefits. See Section 48-120.
How long do I have to file a claim?
Under Nebraska law, an injured party generally has two years from the date of injury to file a claim. There are some exceptions to this rule, but to be safe, you should seek the assistance of counsel as soon as possible following an injury so that your right to benefits can be protected.
Can my employer fire me for filing a claim?
No. If you believe you were fired because you were injured on the job, you should immediately seek legal assistance.
Do I have to see a company doctor?
There are rules about whether the employee or employer chooses the doctor. The employee has the right to select a physician who has maintained the medical records of the employee (or an immediate family member) when the employer notifies the employee of this right. If the employee does not have or does not choose such a physician, then the employer may select the physician. If the employer does not notify the employee of the right of selection, then the employee has the right to select any physician.
The employee also may select a physician to perform a major surgical operation or in cases involving dismemberment. The initial choice of physician can only be changed when both the employee and the employer agree on the change or the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court orders the change. "Physician" includes medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, podiatrists, and dentists.
What happens when my doctor says I can return to work on "light duty"?
Normally, your employer will try to find work for you that fits within the restrictions your doctor has placed on you, as it benefits the employer and the insurance company to have you at work. In some companies, there is no light duty available. In that instance, you would remain on workers compensation until such time as your restrictions are changed or suitable work is found at your place of employment.
Is it true that the insurance company may hire someone to follow me and take photos and videotapes?
Yes. This happens quite often, but as long as you are following your doctor's orders and staying within your restrictions, it will not matter. But you should always be aware that someone may be watching you.
If I can't return to my job, am I eligible for vocational rehabilitation services?
When, as a result of an injury covered under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act, an employee is unable to perform suitable work for which he or she has previous training or experience, the employee is entitled to such vocational rehabilitation services, including job placement and retraining, as may be reasonably necessary to restore him or her to suitable employment.
Do I have to pay to file a lawsuit?
No. Filings with the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court are at no expense to the worker.
What information and records should I keep if I need to file a lawsuit?
It will be helpful to write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of any person who witnessed the workplace injury; keep a calendar or diary of all doctor's appointments and contacts from the insurance company or employer; take photographs of your injuries; if machinery or tools were involved in the injury, you should document the type, make, model, placement of the items and photograph them if possible. The sooner you begin documenting details, the stronger your case will be.