Who is responsible for successive accidents when they occur with a different employer or insurance carrier? (Nebraska)
Who is responsible when an employee sustains an injury as a result of a successive accident? What if the employee is with a new employer? Or a new insurance carrier? The answer to this question depends on whether or not the disability sustained was caused by a recurrence of the original injury, or by an independent intervening cause. If the second injury is a recurrence, the employer and insurance carrier at the time of the original injury are responsible for compensation. Towner v. Western Contracting Corp., 164 Neb. 235, 82 N.W.2d 253 (1957); Snowdardt v. City of Kimball, 174 Neb. 295, 117 N.W.2d 543 (1962); Doty v. Aetna Life & Casualty, 217 Neb. 428, 350 N.W.2d 7 (1984).
The employer bears the burden of proving that there was an independent intervening cause in order to be relieved from liability. The mere possibility of an independent intervening cause will not satisfy the burden. Mendoza v. Omaha Meat Processors Through Tower Ins. Co., 225 Neb. 771, 408 N.W.2d 280 (1987). The question of whether the disability sustained should be attributable to the original injury will depend on whether the original injury caused the disability, or if there was an independent intervening cause. Breed v. Interstate Glass Co., 188 Neb. 284, 196 N.W.2d 169 (1972). If the second injury is a natural consequence flowing from the original compensable accident, there may not be an independent intervening cause to relieve the employer from liability. Doty v. Aetna Life & Casualty, 217 Neb. 428, 350 N.W.2d 7 (1984).
In sum, the fact that an employee sustained a “new” injury while working for a different employer or while covered by a different workers’ compensation insurer is not necessarily indicative of compensability. Rather, the circumstances and medical evidence surrounding the “new” injury need to be closely scrutinized to determine whether it is causally related and/or a recurrence of the original injury. For more information about whether an independent intervening cause exists, please contact Paul Barta at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the Baylor Evnen Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at (402)475-1075.