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Does Violation of a Safety Rule Preclude Entitlement to Workers' Compensation Benefits?

Possibly. In Nebraska workers' compensation claims, benefits may be denied to an injured worker if they were willfully negligent at the time of the injury. Neb. Rev. Stats. 48-102, 48-107, and 48-151(7). Willful negligence consists of (a) a deliberate act, (b) such conduct as evidences reckless indifference to safety, or (c) intoxication at the time of the injury, such intoxication being without the consent, knowledge, or acquiescence of the employer or the employer's agent. Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-151(7). Generally, the deliberate defiance of a reasonable safety rule in place to prevent serious bodily injury to an employee will constitute willful misconduct in the absence of certain excuses. The factors that the Court looks at in determining whether a violation of an employer's safety rule should disqualify a worker from receiving workers' compensation benefits include:

(1) whether the employer has a reasonable rule designed to protect the health and safety of the employee;

(2) whether the employee has actual notice of the rule;

(3) whether the employee has an understanding of the danger involved in the violation of the rule;

(4) whether the rule is kept alive and enforced by the employer;and 

(5) whether the employee has an excuse for violation of the rule.

Guico v. Excel Corp., 260 Neb. 712 (2000). If an employer wants to deny workers' compensation benefits on the basis of willful negligence, the burden is on them to provide the Court with evidence at hearing on the matter. Examples of potential safety violations resulting in injury include laceration of fingers while not wearing safety gloves, removing a guard on a machine to clear a jamb while not disengaging the machine, intoxication on the jobsite, and failure to wear a safety harness. There are endless potential safety violations that may result in injury. Whether the injured worker is disqualified from receiving workers' compensation benefits for the same will depend on the specific facts of each case and the evidence presented.

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  • " 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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