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Christa Binstock Israel Named to Super Lawyers 2017 Great Plains Rising Star List

Attorney Christa Binstock Israel was recently selected to the Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers Rising Stars List in the practice area of Workers' Compensation (Great Plains). The Super Lawyers' Rising Stars list recognizes attorneys 40 years old or younger or who have been practicing law for 10 years or less who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area. No more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state are selected for this honor. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

I am on Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare or other governmental assistance and I've been injured as a result of another's negligence. Are there any special considerations I should be worried about in settling my case?

Yes! Key steps are required to ensure your settlement will not count as income to affect your entitlement to governmental benefits. Steps such as a special needs trust, negotiations with governmental entities, repayment of conditional payments and specific language in settlement documents is often essential to ensure your governmental benefits are not interrupted.

What are the categories of damages I can recover for as part of a settlement for injuries from someone else's negligence?

Lost income and earning power, past and future, and even if your time off was covered by PTO or sick leave; the full charges for all medical care received and not just what insurance paid; pain; mental anguish; inconvenience; permanent disability; a spouse or parent's loss of consortium. If death has resulted, the damages are calculated differently.

If my car is totaled in a collision, will I get treated fairly on the property damage claim?

Unfortunately, often the answer is no. When another driver wrecks your car beyond repair, his or her insurance company should pay you the actual cash value of your car before it was totaled. The industry standard definition of actual cash value is "replacement cost" minus "depreciation." Replacement cost is the amount of money it would take to replace your vehicle with a similar one. Depreciation is the amount of money your car has devalued over time. The insurer also should pay for the sales tax on the new vehicle that you purchase with the insurance money.

The adjuster is offering me a settlement for my injures from an auto collision. Is it fair?

Perhaps, but probably not, unfortunately. The adjuster has financial incentives to minimize your recovery. If this were not the case, why are initial settlement offers low? There are many ways the adjuster tries to do this. One common method is to minimize your medical bills by counting only what health insurance has paid on a reduced fee schedule and not the full charge for the bill, which the law requires. Also, be very wary of adjusters offering to settle a case early, before you have finished recovering, especially in the case of a spine or head injury.

What happens if English is Not My First Language? Who Provides an Interpreter for my Legal Hearings?

In Nebraska, Rule 5 provides that "The court shall appoint an interpreter in any legal proceeding in order to assist a person who cannot readily understand or communicate the English or spoken language." Once a claimant formally requests an interpreter at a hearing, the employer/insurance company must pay the costs for the same. There are different levels of interpreters who are available to provide services at a hearing, including (from highest to lowest): Certified Court Interpreters, Provisionally Certified Court Interpreters, and Registered Court Interpreters. There are also several levels of Sign Language Court Interpreters. The Supreme Court rules indicate that "diligent efforts must be made to obtain the highest level of certification before allowing an interpreter with a lower level of certification to interpret." The Nebraska Supreme Court keeps a Court Interpreter Directory listing the language, certification level, area, and contact information of interpreters. The languages include Vietnamese, Somali, Spanish, Cantonese Mandarin, Bosnian/Serb/Croatian, ASL, French, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, and Arabic. If an alternative language is needed, the Interpreter Coordinators may be able to help. If you require a Court Reporter for your medical appointments, often the employer/insurance company will provide one at their cost as well. At Atwood, Holsten, Brown, Deaver & Spier Law, we know that you likely only get "one day" in Court and that it is important that you be able to understand the legal proceedings and communicate with the Judge and witnesses. We'll do all we can to ensure that you are afforded an interpreter at your medical appointments, deposition, and court hearings.

What Happens if an Employer Fails to Carry Workers' Compensation Coverage for its Employees?

The Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act allows for penalties, or even possible imprisonment, for employers who fail to provide workers' compensation coverage for their employees. If the employer is found to have failed to purchase workers' compensation insurance, is not self-insured, and is not a member of the risk management pool, any or all of the following penalties may be imposed:

Is Everyone Covered by the Nebraska Worker' Compensation Act?

Although there are limited exceptions, the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act applies every employer in the state, including governmental agencies, employers in private industry, part time employers, employers of minors and charitable organizations. Therefore, nearly every employee in the state is covered by workers' compensation law. The few exceptions (those who are not covered by workers' compensation) are:

I received short term disability through my employer while I was out due to injury. The short term disability carrier is now they are asking for their money back out of my settlement. Can they claim that?

Maybe. This is often referred to as subrogation. It will depend on the language of the plan and the intent of the payments. Regardless, there are almost always steps that can be taken to reduce and often convince your short or long term disability carrier to reduce or waive their subrogation interest. We have saved our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars that would otherwise be taken out of their settlement by negotiating down subrogation interests.

Entry Upon an Employer's Property in Workers' Compensation Cases: What Purposes Does it Serve and Who May Attend?

An injured worker's attorney may request entry onto the employer's worksite to gather evidence pertinent to the workers' compensation claim. Access to an employer's property is permitted pursuant to Neb. Ct. R. Disc. § 6-334(a)(2), which allows for:

  • Martindale Hubbell | AV Preeminent | Peer rated for highest level of professional excellence 2017
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What Our Clients Say

  • " The lawyers and support staff at Atwood Law Firm showed me sincere interest and caring on a very personal level, and I knew at all times my interests were front and center in all aspects of my workers' compensation case. This office is staffed by a great group of people. You can relax and be assured that your welfare comes first and foremost in their decisions and actions with respect to your legal case. You are kept aware of the process and progress in your case at all times, and your input is welcomed. I highly recommend the Atwood Law Firm to anyone needing legal assistance.” - WN
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