History, Mission, and Organization
The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act was first enacted in 1913 and was originally titled the Nebraska Workmen’s Compensation Act. From then until 1917 the Act was administered by the several state district courts. In 1917, the Legislature created the Compensation Division in the Department of Labor and the commissioner of labor was designated compensation commissioner. The 1935 Legislature established the Workmen’s Compensation Court and transferred
Compensation Division functions to the court. In 1986, the name of the court was changed to the Workers’ Compensation Court. By 1988, the workers’ compensation bench had grown to seven judges who hear disputed cases throughout the state. The authority and responsibilities of the court are found in Chapter 48, Article 1, of the Revised Statutes of Nebraska.
The mission of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court is to administer and enforce all provisions of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, except
those provisions that are committed to the courts of appellate jurisdiction or as otherwise provided by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-152.
The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court is composed of seven judges who are initially appointed by the governor. Judges are then subject to a retention vote by the electorate three years after appointment and every six years thereafter. Every two years one of the judges is elected as presiding judge by the judges of the court, subject to approval of the Nebraska Supreme Court. The court maintains offices in Lincoln and Omaha, although all court filings must be made in the Lincoln office. The judge assigned to each case will travel to the county in the state where the accident occurred to hear a dispute regarding workers’ compensation benefits. The judge will then enter a written ruling stating his or her factual and legal conclusions. The judge’s decision may be appealed to the Nebraska Court of Appeals. A limited number of appeals may also be heard by the Nebraska Supreme Court, either directly or upon further review of a decision by the Nebraska Court of Appeals.
For administrative purposes, the judges and staff of the court are organized into two operating divisions and seven operating sections. The adjudication division, under the direction of the presiding judge, includes the judges and the Office of the Clerk of the Court. The administration division, under the direction of the court administrator, includes the remaining six sections as identified below. The presiding judge is charged with overall responsibility for the functioning of the court, and the court administrator serves as the chief administrative officer for the court.
The Office of the Clerk of the Court receives and processes court filings, dockets cases, issues summonses, schedules trials and motion hearings, corresponds with the litigants, issues opinions of the court, keeps full and true records of judicial proceedings, and provides administrative and secretarial support for the judges of the court. This section also evaluates procedures used by other state courts to ensure consistency and create efficiencies.
The Business and Human Resources section is responsible for the business, financial, and personnel functions of the court. The section administers the second injury program which provides workers’ compensation benefits to qualified workers who have suffered multiple injuries. Under a federal grant, the section also conducts a survey of work-related injuries and illnesses and a data collection program as to fatal injuries sustained in the State of Nebraska.
The Legal section reviews settlement applications for adequacy and compliance with the Act; conducts mediation conferences to facilitate informal resolution of
disputes; informs injured workers, employers, and others of their rights and obligations under the Act; performs research for the judges; provides legal advice to court staff; monitors legislation for potential impact on the workers’ compensation system; and manages the court’s records retention schedule.
The Regulatory Programs section has responsibilities in three distinct areas: Compliance; Medical Services; and Self-Insurance. Compliance activities include enforcing insurance coverage requirements, enforcing the claims handling and reporting obligations of insurers and self-insured employers, and receiving and processing reports of injury and benefit payments. Medical services activities include revising and maintaining schedules of medical and hospital fees, administering the independent medical examiner program, certifying and monitoring managed care plans, and responding to inquiries related to medical issues. Self-insurance activities include reviewing applications for self-insurance approval, monitoring the financial status and payroll records of self-insured employers, and collecting fees and assessments from self-insured employers.
The Vocational Rehabilitation section is responsible for certifying vocational rehabilitation counselors and job placement specialists, appointing a vocational rehabilitation counselor if the parties cannot agree on the selection, and reviewing and approving proposed vocational rehabilitation plans. This section monitors the progress of injured workers in an approved plan and determines what plan expenses may be reimbursed by the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund.
The Public Information section responds to requests for records and information, supports a toll-free telephone information line (including language interpretation services, when needed), maintains the court’s website, and prepares court publications. The section also manages the business continuity program for the court.
The Information Technology section is responsible for the security and maintenance of the computer network, programs, and databases of the court. The section develops and maintains the court’s desktop and Internet systems; develops computer programs and applications; coordinates information technology activities with the Supreme Court, state agencies, and vendors; and assists other court sections in performing their statutory responsibilities and creating efficiencies through the use of technology.