You got injured or sick on the job. Do you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits? If so, what do you need to do to collect the benefits you deserve? Here are 10 important facts about filing for workers’ compensation benefits in Wisconsin:
1. Workers’ Compensation Covers “Employees”
The first thing you need to know about workers’ compensation is that benefits are available to “employees.” If you are an independent contractor, then you generally are not eligible to receive benefits.
Most workers in Wisconsin are employees. If you work for a company, receive a regular paycheck, and receive a W-2 at the end of the year, then you almost certainly qualify. If you receive 1099 instead of a W-2, this suggests that you are an independent contractor—although it is possible that you are being misclassified.
2. Most (But Not All) Employees Are Covered
Wisconsin law requires most employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance that covers their employees. But, there are a few exceptions. For example, farms are generally excluded, and some employers are subject to federal workers’ compensation laws instead of Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation statute.
The law also excludes certain types of employees from workers’ compensation eligibility. Domestic workers and volunteers are two examples. But, as the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) notes, “[n]early all workers in Wisconsin are covered.” So, if you have gotten injured or sick on the job, it is worth speaking with a Madison workers’ compensation lawyer about your legal rights.
3. The Uninsured Employers Fund Covers Employees Whose Employers Don’t Have Insurance
While Wisconsin law requires most employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, not all employers follow the law. To protect employees whose employers don’t follow the law, the Wisconsin DWD has established the Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF). If you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and your employer doesn’t have insurance, you can hire a lawyer to help you file a claim with the UEF.
4. Workers’ Compensation Covers Physical and Mental Harm in Wisconsin
As the Wisconsin DWD explains, an “injury” for workers’ compensation purposes is, “any mental or physical harm due to workplace accidents or diseases.” The DWD provides the following examples of physical and mental harm:
- Crushing injuries
- Cuts and bruises
- Emotional stress
- Loss or paralysis of a body part
- Loss of hearing or vision
- Nervous disorders
- Respiratory diseases
- Sprains and strains
- Traumatic neurosis
It is important to emphasize that these are just examples. Many more types of job-related injuries and illnesses are covered. If you have any questions about your eligibility you should talk to a Madison workers’ compensation lawyer promptly.
5. You Can (and Should) Choose Your Own Doctor
After suffering a job-related injury or illness, it is important to seek treatment promptly. Under Wisconsin law, you have the right to see “any physician, psychologist, chiropractor, dentist, physician assistant, advanced practice nurse prescriber or podiatrist who is licensed to practice in Wisconsin.” Your employer cannot tell you where to go for treatment; however, you may have to submit to an examination by a doctor who has been selected by your employer. If you receive a request for an “independent medical exam” (or “IME”), you should discuss the request with your lawyer before submitting to the examination.
6. Workers’ Compensation Covers Must (But Not All) Forms of Medical Treatment
If you have a workers’ compensation claim in Wisconsin, you are entitled to receive the treatment you need to get better or to achieve your “maximum medical improvement” (or “MMI”). However, not all forms of treatment are covered. For example, Wisconsin law specifically excludes physical therapy, massage, and pain clinic services from coverage, “unless the treatment is ordered by a doctor or . . . the employer or insurance company specifically agrees in advance to pay for such treatment.”
7. You Must Notify Your Employer of Your Injury or Illness
While you might be hesitant to tell your employer that you have an injury or illness, this is a key step in the process of filing for workers’ compensation benefits. The Wisconsin DWD recommends filing a report within 30 days, but you should generally report your injury or illness as soon as possible. Technically, you have up to two years to file a report with your employer. However, waiting this long can make it much more difficult to collect the benefits you deserve.
It is also important to understand that your employer cannot legally fire you or take other adverse employment action based on the fact that you decided to file for workers’ compensation benefits. Filing for workers’ compensation is your right, and you cannot be punished for exercising it.
8. You May Qualify for Temporary Disability, Permanent Disability, or Both
In addition to coverage for your eligible medical expenses, you may qualify for temporary or permanent disability benefits. You may also qualify for both. These benefits cover a portion of your lost wages while you are unable to work (or while you are only able to work in a limited capacity). Calculating your disability benefits requires a detailed understanding of Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation benefit schedule, and it is best to work with an experienced Madison workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure that you are seeking the maximum benefits available to you.
9. Workers’ Compensation Disputes are Common
From denying that employees’ injuries are work-related to underpaying employees’ benefits, workers’ compensation disputes are common. Hiring a lawyer will help minimize your risk of facing a dispute; and, if you encounter a dispute, your lawyer will be able to handle it for you.
10. You Can Hire a Madison Workers’ Compensation Lawyer at No Out-of-Pocket Cost
Finally, you can hire a Madison workers’ compensation lawyer to handle your claim at no out-of-pocket cost. At Mays Law Office, we help injured workers apply for benefits and deal with benefit denials. To discuss your workers’ compensation claim in confidence, contact us today.
Talk to a Madison Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Free
Do you have a workers’ compensation claim in Wisconsin? If so, we can help. Call 608-257-0440 or contact us online to get started with a free and confidential consultation.