History, Mission, and Organization
Legislation establishing a system for resolving claims of workplace injuries was first enacted in Nebraska in 1913 with the adoption of the Nebraska Workmen’s Compensation Act (the Act). From then until 1917, the Act was administered by the several state district courts. In 1917, the Nebraska Legislature created the Compensation Division within the Department of Labor and the commissioner of labor was designated compensation commissioner.
The 1935 Legislature established the three-judge Workmen’s Compensation Court and transferred Compensation Division functions to the court. That change was made to assure stability through longer-tenured judges not subject to political changes and to provide a degree of specialization and expertise in a technical area.
The authority and responsibilities of the court are described in Chapter 48, Article 1, of the Revised Statutes of Nebraska (cited as “NEB. REV. STAT.”). Per NEB. REV. STAT. § 48-152, the court was created in recognition that:
industrial relations between employers and employees within the State of Nebraska are affected with a vital public interest;
an impartial and efficient administration of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act is essential to the prosperity and well-being of the state; and
suitable laws should be enacted for establishing and preserving the administration of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.
In 1986, the name of the court was changed to the Workers’ Compensation Court. Currently, the workers’ compensation bench is composed of six judges who hear disputed cases throughout the state.
The mission of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court is to administer and enforce all provisions of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, except those committed to the courts of appellate jurisdiction or as otherwise provided by NEB. REV. STAT. § 48-152.
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: Business and Human Resources; Legal; Regulatory Programs; Vocational Rehabilitation; Public Information; and Information Technology. The presiding judge is charged with overall responsibility for the functioning of the court, and the court administrator serves as its chief administrative officer.
Office of the Clerk of the Court
The Office of the Clerk of the Court (the Clerk’s office), together with the judges, make up the court’s adjudicatory operating division. Judges of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court resolve disputes concerning injuries that are claimed to have been caused by workplace injuries or diseases. The Clerk’s office receives and processes filings, dockets cases, issues summonses, corresponds with the parties, schedules trials and motion hearings, keeps a full and true record of the judicial proceedings, issues all necessary notices and writs, issues opinions, provides administrative and secretarial support for the judges, and evaluates procedures used by other state courts to ensure consistency and create efficiencies.
Business and Human Resources section
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 with a preexisting disability in addition to a work injury occurring before December 1, 1997. Also, this section pays vocational rehabilitation training costs for injured workers in approved plans developed to return them to suitable work. Under federal grants, the section conducts a survey of work-related injuries and illnesses and a data collection program as to fatal workplace injuries sustained in the State of Nebraska.
The Legal section reviews settlement applications for adequacy and compliance with the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act); conducts mediation conferences to facilitate informal resolution of disputes; informs injured workers, employers, and others about the Act; performs legal 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 access to public records process, assists in the court’s records and information management, and the records retention schedule.
Regulatory Programs section
The Regulatory Programs section has responsibilities in four distinct areas.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the process through which the court receives and processes reports of injuries and benefit payments.
Compliance activities include enforcing insurance coverage requirements as well as claims handling and reporting obligations of insurers and self-insured employers.
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.
Vocational Rehabilitation section
One of the primary purposes of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act is restoration of the injured employee to gainful employment following an injury arising out of and in the course of employment. Toward that end, the duties of the Vocational Rehabilitation section include:
reviewing, implementing, and monitoring vocational rehabilitation plans;
appointing counselors to cases when the parties cannot agree;
recruiting, certifying, and maintaining a directory of vocational rehabilitation counselors and job placement specialists; and
monitoring expenditures from the Workers' Compensation Trust Fund.
Public Information section
The Public Information section responds to requests for records and information, supports the court’s toll-free telephone information line, maintains its website, prepares its publications and forms, and manages its business continuity program.
Information Technology section
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.