Workplace Death Benefit in Bill Should Be Expanded

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Omaha Sen. Health Mellow

Omaha Sen. Health Mellow

I was recently quoted in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper as a neutral testifier in the Nebraska Legislature regarding a bill being considered, LB 836.

As commentator Paul Harvey used to say, now here’s “the rest of the story.”

LB 836 is a bill sponsored by Omaha Sen. Health Mellow that “would provide a one-time $50,000 death benefit to the family of a law enforcement officer, firefighter or correctional officer killed during a violent or accidental incident while working,” according to the World-Herald article.

This bill should be passed to help first responders and I am glad that it would also cover volunteers in Nebraska, according to the World-Herald.

I have to ask: Why stop there? For many families, the on-the-job death of a loved one means so much tragedy, and LB 836 or another bill should be is introduced, passed, and be made into law to give a similar benefit to anyone who is killed on the job in the state of Nebraska. It’s an issue of inclusion. No one should be excluded from their loved ones having a bit more financial stability if the unthinkable happens on the job.

Sen. Mellow was quoted in the World-Herald saying that eight first responders in 16 years have been killed in the line of duty in Nebraska.

It is tragic and frustrating to hear about anyone killed at work, and one person dying is one too many. In this spirit, of the 4,679 fatal work injuries in 2014, 54 of them were in Nebraska, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Fatal Work Injuries in Nebraska – 2014 website.

The range of workplace fatalities varied from a high of 83 in 1994 to a low of 36 in 2005. In 2013, there were 39 deaths, and 48 people died at work in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics websites.

It appears that over the last 10 years, according to a table in the 2014 BLS document, approximately 492 workers’ loved ones would have appreciated worrying less about finances when their loved one died as a result of the workplace.

I feel strongly that grieving survivors should receive a significant death benefit for every Nebraska worker who is killed on the job. Right now, the beneficiaries of employees who are killed at work get $10,000, which these days is not even enough for a funeral and burial. Usually this is the tip of the iceberg regarding unexpected costs that loved ones endure, in addition to a brutal and unanticipated grieving process, too.

The average number of deaths a year that I gave at the hearing was on the low end: 36, based on the number that occurred in 2005.

But know that each of those people who died in a workplace incident had someone who loved her or him and who relied on that person and misses them immensely. Kudos to Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins, who recognized that the grieving process is universal, according to the article in the Lincoln Journal Star. I stand by the quote that was in the Journal Star, and want to emphasize that first responders are important contributors to society, as are other workers who are killed each year on the job, including those who make such occupational choices as steel workers, road workers, and packing plant workers.

“I’ve had those guys fall off roofs and die and get crushed. They’re doing a hell of a community service. So are road workers. So are the packing plant workers who get chewed up and spit out like the hamburger they’re making.”

All of them are contributing to society. So I hope we can honor them and their survivors through increased death benefits legislation to show those contributions.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Government, Legislation, Worker safety, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , .

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