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Willful Negligence Required for Employee to Be Disqualified for Workers' Compensation for Injury
Description Nebraska high court held that mere negligence by a worker, who inflicted an injury on himself because he did not follow safety rules, was not sufficient for him to be denied workers' compensation benefits. Recklessness is required for benefits to be lost.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Workers' Compensation; Negligence
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Guico worked for Excel in a meat packing plant for two years until he was fired the day he was injured. He was specifically told he was required to wear steel-mesh gloves and a mesh apron whenever using a knife. Guico admits that he was told numerous times of the importance of these precautions. The day of his injury, Guico was not wearing his steel-mesh gloves when his knife slipped, cutting his thumb and a finger, resulting in an 11 percent permanent partial disability to his right hand. He admitted that he violated safety rules, but he did not injure himself intentionally. Excel fired him but covered his medical expenses. He applied for and received workers' compensation benefits. The company appealed the award.
Decision Affirmed. Excel failed to show that Guico was willfully negligent when he suffered his injury. An employer must prove a deliberate act knowingly done or at least such conduct as evidences a reckless indifference to the employee's own safety. Mere negligence is not sufficient to constitute willful negligence so as to preclude the award of workers' compensation benefits. The fact that he was fired for his violation of safety rules does not disqualify him from receiving disability benefits.
Citation Guico v. Excel Corp., 619 N.W.2d 470 (Sup. Ct., Neb., 2000)

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