History, Mission, and Organization
The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act was first passed 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 law.
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. A judge will travel to any county in the state where an accident occurred to hear a dispute regarding workers’ compensation benefits. A case is first heard by a single judge, whose decision may be appealed. Prior to LB 151 from the 2011 session of the Nebraska Legislature, cases were first appealed to a three-judge review panel of the compensation court, with a possible further appeal to the Nebraska Court of Appeals. Following LB 151, cases are appealed directly to the Nebraska Court of Appeals. A limited number of appeals may also be heard by Nebraska Supreme Court, either directly or by 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 summons, schedules trials and hearings on motions, corresponds with the parties, issues opinions of the court, and provides administrative and secretarial support for the judges of the court.
The Business and Human Resources section is responsible for the business, financial, and personnel functions of the court, and also administers the second injury program which provides benefits to qualified workers who have suffered multiple injuries. Under a federal grant, the section conducts a survey of work-related injuries and illnesses and a data collection program for fatal injuries.
The Legal section reviews settlement applications for adequacy and compliance with the law, conducts mediation conferences to facilitate informal resolution of
disputes, informs injured workers, employers, and others of their rights and obligations under the law, 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 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. The progress of injured workers in an approved plan is monitored, and all payments from the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund for plan expenses must be approved by the section.
The Public Information section responds to requests for records and information, supports a toll-free information line, maintains the court’s Internet website, and prepares court publications. The section also manages the court’s business continuity program.
The Information Technology section is responsible for 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 meeting their goals through the use of technology.