The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court reported workplace deaths increased from 41 to 54 over the last fiscal year. Workplace deaths increased in Nebraska even as the overall number of reported work injuries declined.
The findings were included in the annual report of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation released on Monday.
I think its’ important to note that the number of First Report of Injuries is just an estimate of work injuries in Nebraska. Filing a first report isn’t an admission of a work injury by an employer. On the flip side some employers under-report work injuries, so the number reported by the court could either overestimate or underestimate the number of work injuries in this states
Statistics from one year from one state may not indicate any kind of trend about workplace deaths or work injuries. Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state. Statistics from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) probably give a better picture of national trends but, their reporting lags behind one fiscal year. In the most recent reported year, Fiscal Year 2018, the BLS showed a 2 percent increase in workplace fatalities.
But even if the increase in workplace deaths in Nebraska isn’t significant from a statistical point of view, workplace deaths are tragic for the families affected. I’ve written previously about how the workplace injury and death survivor group, USMWF has started to lobby for better workplace safety and workers’ compensation laws.
Maximum benefit rates increased for 2020
The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court announced the maximum weekly benefit will also increase from $882 to $855. Nebraska law adjusts the maximum wage rate along with increases to the state’s average wage rate.
While the increase in maximum benefits in Nebraska is routine, that is not the case in every state. In 2017, a judge in Alabama ruled portions of their workers’ compensation law was unconstitutional because maximum benefits had not increased since 1987.
Interestingly enough, the court has not announced the mileage rate for 2020. That number is based on the IRS rate which has not been announced yet. The current mileage rate is $.58 per mile.
Transportation cost is one factor in determining how disabled injured workers are in Nebraska. Much litigation centers on whether it is cost-effective for a worker living in a remote area to commute to a more populated area for work. The cost of a commute, as determined by the mileage rate, in proportion the wages earned is a crucial question.
In 2019, the cost of transportation increased faster than the increase in average wages in the state. In practical terms, this would mean an injured worker might reasonably expected to commute a shorter distance. But mileage costs can vary from year to year, while the maximum benefit as average wage tends to increase steadily. Mileage reimbursement was only 5.4 percent higher in 2019 than it was in 2009. In contrast, the maximum benefit increased 27.4 percent over the same period.