Earlier this year, we published an article discussing the types of injuries covered under workers’ compensation in Wisconsin. In that article, we explained that it isn’t the nature of your injury that determines your legal rights, but rather the circumstances surrounding your injury and your employment status.
With this in mind, there are certain circumstances in which job-related injuries aren’t covered under workers’ compensation. But, if you got injured in one of these circumstances, you should still speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. There are exceptions to the general rules; and, even if you aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you may qualify for other benefits or financial compensation.
5 Circumstances In Which Job-Related Injuries Might Not Be Covered Under Workers’ Compensation
So, when might you be ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits? Generally, workers’ compensation benefits are not available in the following five circumstances:
1. You Got Injured During Your Morning or Evening Commute
Even though commuting is a necessary part of going to work, it is not considered a “job-related” activity for workers’ compensation purposes in most cases. So, if you get injured in a car accident during your morning or evening commute, you most likely won’t be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits (although you may have an auto insurance claim).
But, there are some exceptions. For example, if your employer asks you to pick up supplies on your way in or drop off a delivery on your way home, this may qualify your commute as job-related. In this scenario, you are not solely commuting, but you are also doing something that your employer specifically asked you to do for work. Since you are driving for work to a location that you would not otherwise be driving, you should be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
2. You Deviated From Your Work Duties While Traveling
In general, work-related travel is covered under workers’ compensation in Wisconsin. But, an exception applies if you “deviate” from your work duties while traveling. As the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) explains, “If your work requires travel, you are covered at all times while traveling, including the time you are eating or sleeping, unless you deviate from regular work duties for a private or personal reason.”
So, let’s say you live in Middleton and your employer asks you to travel to Milwaukee for business. If you decide to take advantage of the opportunity and attend a Brewers game while you are there, your trip to American Family Field wouldn’t be covered.
3. You Injured Yourself On Purpose or Were Engaged in Horseplay or Fighting
Workers’ compensation is a “no fault” system in Wisconsin. This means that eligible employees can file claims for benefits regardless of who is at fault for their injuries. But, there are two major exceptions to this rule.
The first is for intentional injuries. If you intentionally injure yourself in order to file for workers’ compensation benefits, your injury won’t be covered. This exception exists for the very purpose of discouraging workers from making dangerous decisions with the goal of collecting disability compensation. The Wisconsin DWD makes this clear, stating: “The law provides that if an injury is intentionally self-inflicted, it is not compensable.”
The second exception is for horseplay and fighting. As the Wisconsin DWD explains, “If the injured employee started the horseplay or was the aggressor in the fight, it is unlikely that the employee will be paid compensation.” But, the DWD also clarifies that, “if an employee is injured as the result of horseplay started by others . . . [or] attacked without provocation, he or she may be awarded compensation.”
4. Your Employer Isn’t Required to Have Workers’ Compensation Coverage
In Wisconsin, not all employers are required to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation law applies to most companies with three or more employees, as well as companies with fewer employees that pay wages of $500 more in any calendar quarter. In the agricultural industry, it applies to employers that have six or more employees for at least 20 days per year.
As you can see, the exceptions to Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation law are fairly limited; and, as the Wisconsin DWD notes, “[n]early all workers in Wisconsin are covered.” But, if your employer isn’t required to have coverage (and if it hasn’t purchased coverage voluntarily), you won’t be able to claim workers’ compensation benefits if you get injured on the job.
5. You Are an “Independent Contractor” Instead of an “Employee”
Finally, in Wisconsin, workers’ compensation benefits are only available to workers who are “employees.” If you are an “independent contractor,” as a general rule you aren’t eligible for benefits. But, some employers misclassify their workers, so even if you have been told that you are an independent contractor, you should still consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer about your legal rights.
How Do I Know for Sure If I Can File for Workers’ Compensation in Wisconsin?
If you have been injured on the job in Wisconsin, how can you know for sure if you should file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits?
Understanding your legal rights under Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation law isn’t easy. There are lots of rules and exceptions, and you can’t necessarily trust your employer to tell you what you need to know. With this in mind, the best thing you can do is consult with a lawyer. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will be able to determine your eligibility; and, if you have a claim, your lawyer can fight for maximum benefits on your behalf. Even taking your legal fees into account, you can take home more with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your side.
Discuss Your Legal Rights with a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Middleton, WI
If you have suffered a job-related injury and have questions about your right to workers’ compensation benefits, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Middleton, WI in confidence, call 608-257-0440 or get in touch online now.