“So God Made A Farmer.”
As the harvest season approaches, Nebraskans should be reminded that farming and agricultural operations are a dangerous business!
There are approximately 3.1 million men and women who work on America’s 2.3 million farms and ranches. According to Accident Facts published from 1990 through 2004 by the National Safety Council, farm accidents and other work-related health problems claim as many as 1,300 lives and cause 120,000 injuries a year, most of which are preventable.
As A General Rule:
Employers of farm or ranch laborers are generally exempt from the provisions of the Nebraska Worker’s Compensation Act, and farm or ranch laborers injured while employed by someone operating a farm or ranch are not entitled to receive any of the benefits under the Nebraska Worker’s Compensation Act.
However, that is not the end of the discussion. There are exceptions that you must be aware of that can indeed bring a farm and ranch hand under the protections of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Every farm or agriculture operation, that is not required to provide workers’ compensation coverage to its unrelated employees, shall give all unrelated employees at the time of hiring (or more than 30 days prior to the time of injury) the following written notice which shall be signed by the unrelated employee and retained by the farm or agriculture operation employer and can be found here in statute:
“In this employment you will not be covered by the Nebraska Worker’s Compensation Act and you will not be compensated under the act if you are injured on the job or suffer an occupational disease. You should plan accordingly.”
If A Farming Operation Failed To Provide Notice – Then What?
If the above-required notice was not given to all unrelated employees, signed by them, and retained by the employer, then, in Nebraska, when work is performed by a worker when performed for an employer who is engaged in an agricultural operation and farming and that employer employs 10 or more unrelated, full-time employees, whether in one or more locations, then all unrelated employees shall be covered under the Nebraska Worker’s Compensation Act.
As a result, for every farm or agricultural operation that fails, neglects, or refuses to comply with providing and retaining proof of the required notice, then this farm or agricultural employer shall be required to respond in damages to an employee for personal injuries, or when personal injuries result in the death of an employee, then to his or her dependents.
So The Farming Operation Doesn’t Have Workers’ Compensation Coverage?
“If an employer subject to the Act fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance or an acceptable alternative, then the Act is no longer the employee’s exclusive remedy. Instead, the employee can elect to either proceed under the Act and recover the statutorily set benefits or seek to recover damages in a common-law action against the employer.”
Avre v. Sexton, 110 Neb. 149, 193 N.W. 342 (1923)
Defendant is Deprived of Important Defenses
Under §48-103 of the Workers’ Compensation Act, Defendants are statutorily denied three affirmative defenses due to their lack of workers’ compensation coverage: “If an employer, as defined in § 48-106, does not carry a policy of workers’ compensation insurance … he or she loses the right to interpose the three defenses mentioned in section 48-102 in any action brought against him or her for personal injury or death of an employee.” Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-103 (2006) (emphasis added).
Section 48-102 provides:
“In all cases brought under sections 48-101 to 48-108, it shall not be a defense (a) that the employee was negligent, unless it shall also appear that such negligence was willful, or that the employee was in a state of intoxication; (b) that the injury was caused by the negligence of a fellow employee; or (c) that the employee had assumed the risks inherent in, or incidental to, or arising from the failure of the employer to provide and maintain safe premises and suitable appliances, which grounds of defense are hereby abolished.”
So, if you, or a loved one, are injured while working for a farm, farmer, agricultural operation, ranch, etc., you may be entitled to the all-important state protections of workers’ compensation benefits, but you may also have a right to file in District Court to pursue common-law damages and pain and suffering. If this is the case, seek the advice of a knowledgeable attorney to help you determine your rights.