Wisconsin Recognizes Injuries Occurring in the “Course Of Employment”

Wisconsin Recognizes Injuries Occurring in the “Course Of Employment”


For an injury to be covered for workers compensation benefits in Wisconsin, it must have occurred in the “course of your employment.” This means that the time, place, and circumstances under which the accident takes place must be considered.  It is liberally construed to favor all service that can in any sense be said to reasonably come within it.  This is good since so many of us have unconventional work settings and hours working from our homes, satellite offices, and cars.  Now more than ever, what the “course of employment” includes can be confusing.


According to Wisconsin Statute sec, the course of employment is determined by whether or not the injury occurred while the employee was performing a service growing out of and incidental to her employment.  102.03(1)(c ).  The most recognizable work injuries occur at or on the worksite, under the employer’s business roof, like in factories or office settings.  But what about when an employee is hurt on the job, but it occurs away from the traditional worksite?  The course of employment is read broadly to include many job situations and sites, such as the employee who slips and falls and injures his knee in the employer’s designated parking lot, even if the injury occurred before or after the shift.  Being in the designated parking lot is enough to be considered in the course of employment.


The Wisconsin injured worker does not have to be in work mode to recover workers compensation benefits.  Consider the employee of the worksite to run an errand directed by the employer.  If the employee has a motor vehicle accident with injury while picking up lunch for the company lunch meeting, their injuries will be deemed during employment.  The act of picking up the lunch furthered the interest of the employer, who directed a meeting over the lunch hour.

Other company get-togethers can also fall under the course of employment even if they appear recreational or party-like.  If the get-together is mandated, authorized, or directed by the employer, then injury occurring during it can be considered during employment.


During the Covid pandemic, we saw employees working from their homes more often.  An injury occurring at home, such as a fall resulting in an injury when taking the trash out to the curb for pickup, can be considered during employment.  This may seem surprising but think of it this way, the trash that was collected was, in part, because the injured employee works full hours from home, and has work equipment in their homes, such as a computer, files, desk, printer, and shredder.  The trash accumulating in the house is like trash in a work or office setting.  Ultimately, it will be a covered injury for Wisconsin workers compensation benefits if working from home was necessary for the employer rather than a complete convenience for the employee.


Injury to traveling employees, like those in sales, who suffer an injury during their travels, will be covered by Wisconsin worker’s compensation benefits, even if the injury occurs during off-hours.  Consider the traveling employee who meets with a client or co-workers for drinks after the workday and suffers a concussion due to a fall in the bar/restaurant.  This period of deviation will still be considered in the course of employment as long as the deviation is not purely private or personal to them.  It is generally accepted in Wisconsin that casual encounters with a co-worker or client while on a business trip are still in the course of employment.


Wisconsin recognizes that during a workday, employees will need moments or brief pauses from their duties to handle the various necessities of life and personal needs, such as using the restroom.  This is called the personal comfort doctrine.  Technically, the employee is not performing services for the employer. However, these breaks in the workday are justified because the employer receives an indirect benefit where their employees are personally comfortable.  Therefore, such deviations still fall into the course of employment category.   So, lunch and coffee breaks, smoking, and leaving the workstation for a drink of water or some fresh air while on the employer’s premises are not a deviation from consideration of being in the course of employment.


What about those situations where employers allow or even encourage frivolity in the work setting, such as ping-pong, darts, tossing the football, or a round of basketball during work hours?  Will injury occurring during such horseplay be covered for workers compensation benefits in Wisconsin?  The answer is a cautionary Yes, but the level of such horseplay needs to be considered.  The true answer will be situational with every case.  A review of the extent to which the practice or nature of the horseplay has or had become an accepted, or even expected, part of the employment must be analyzed.  So, if a lunchtime altercation breaks out during a game of darts and one co-worker intentionally throws a dart directly at another co-worker, causing injury. It is unlikely that workers’ compensation benefits will cover the such injury.  But if it is well-known and accepted that dock workers regularly throw around the football during slow periods of shipping and receiving, and a traumatic torn rotator cuff injury results, then this will likely be considered in the course of employment for workers compensation coverage.


Not every injury during work hours or in the workplace is compensable for workers’ compensation benefits in Wisconsin.  For instance, injury resulting from an idiopathic fall will not be covered for benefits.  Idiopathic is an injury that arises spontaneously for which the cause is unknown.  So, a Wisconsin injured worker who describes their fall at work as occurring without reason or explanation will be considered idiopathic and personal to them.  It occurs most often when the employee is walking and falls for no known reason.  It will be considered that the fall occurred due to their condition and not related to any condition, danger, or circumstance arising from the work or workplace.

Remember that every injury has its specific set of facts and nuances.  Feel comfortable and welcome to contact Attorney Lisa Pierobon Mays at Mays Law Office (608)257-0440/www.mayslaw.net to describe your situation for a free consultation.

What Types of Accidents Does Workers’ Compensation Cover in Wisconsin?

What Types of Accidents Does Workers’ Compensation Cover in Wisconsin?

We recently published an article discussing the types of injuries that qualify for workers’ compensation coverage in Wisconsin. In that article, we emphasized the fact that eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits is primarily based on your employment status and the cause of your injury—rather than the nature of your injury itself. To follow up on that discussion, this article focuses on the types of accidents that workers’ compensation covers under Wisconsin law.

Workers’ Compensation Covers On-the-Job Accidents

While some states allow eligible employees to collect workers’ compensation benefits for injuries they suffer on personal time, workers’ compensation only covers on-the-job accidents in Wisconsin. If you got injured on personal time you are not eligible to file for workers’ comp—even if your injury prevents you from working (you may, however, qualify for Social Security disability (SSD) or other benefits).

To qualify as an “on-the-job” accident, an accident does not have to involve your specific job duties. As long as you were on the clock and acting within the scope of your employment, most types of accidents will qualify. This means, generally speaking, eligible employees in Wisconsin can seek workers’ compensation benefits for accidents ranging from industrial equipment and power tool accidents to slip-and-fall accidents on the way to the bathroom.

When isn’t an accident covered under workers’ compensation in Wisconsin? Aside from being ineligible for benefits (i.e., if you are an independent contractor instead of an employee), your accident might not be covered if:

  • You were injured while commuting. As the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) explains, “Usually, the only time an employee can be compensated for an injury which happens on the way to or from work is if it occurs on company-owned property, or under conditions cited in the law.”
  • You were injured off-premises during a break. “Generally, an employee who is injured at work while attending to personal needs, such as smoking, eating, getting refreshments or going to the lavatory, is paid worker’s compensation. Injuries off the employer’s premises during a break or lunch hour are usually not covered.”
  • You were running a personal errand. “[A]n employee who while driving on the job runs a private errand and deviates from the ordinary driving route would not be compensated.”
  • You initiated horseplay. “The circumstances surrounding horseplay or fighting determine[] if an injured worker should be compensated. If the injured employee started the horseplay or was the aggressor in the fight, it is unlikely that the employee will be paid compensation.”
  • You intentionally injured yourself. “The law provides that if an injury is intentionally self-inflicted, it is not compensable.”

Otherwise, most types of job-related accidents can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Wisconsin. This includes accidents both on and off company property.

Common On-the-Job Accidents Covered Under Workers’ Comp

Now that we’ve covered the types of accidents that aren’t eligible for workers compensation, when can you file a claim for benefits? Some of the most common types of on-the-job accidents covered under workers’ comp in Wisconsin include:

Slips and Falls

Slips and falls are among the leading causes of job-related injuries across all occupations. If you slipped and fell at work, this type of accident generally qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. Again, this is true whether you were performing your job duties or you were walking to your office, to the cafeteria, or to the bathroom.

Hand Tool and Power Tool Accidents

Hand tool and power tool accidents also generally qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Another important point to clarify is that workers’ compensation provides coverage regardless of the cause of an accident (with some exceptions, such as horseplay, as discussed above). So, even if you accidentally injured yourself with a hand tool or power tool, you can still file a claim for benefits.

Industrial Equipment and Machinery Accidents

Accidents involving forklifts, presses, assembly lines, and other types of industrial equipment and machinery are covered under Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation law. As long as you are a covered employee (which most industrial workers are), your accident should be covered unless a specific exception applies. 

Lifting, Bending, and Twisting Accidents

You don’t have to be injured in a major accident to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Lifting, bending, twisting, and other similar types of accidents resulting in soft tissue damage or lower back pain also generally qualify for coverage.

Vehicle Collisions

As we mentioned above, you don’t have to be at the office or on the jobsite to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. If you were injured in a vehicle collision within the scope of your employment, you can file for workers’ compensation based on the injuries you sustained in the collision.


Electrocutions are also common jobsite injuries. While these accidents often result from coworkers’ or subcontractors’ negligence, you don’t need to be able to prove negligence to file a successful claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Exposure to Harmful Fumes, Substances, or Fire

Exposure incidents involving hazardous materials, dangerous particulates, harmful fumes, and fire all fall under workers’ compensation in Wisconsin. If you were injured in any of these types of incidents while working—whether on your employer’s premises, at a customer’s property, or on the road—you may have a claim for workers’ comp benefits.

These are just examples. If you were injured in any type of job-related accident, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. You should also talk to a lawyer if you think you might not qualify for workers’ comp. Even if you don’t have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, you may still have other options for recovering your medical bills, lost earnings, and other accident-related losses.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Madison Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Stephen E. Mays

Do you have questions about filing for workers’ comp benefits in Wisconsin? If so, we encourage you to contact us for more information. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Madison workers’ compensation lawyer Stephen E. Mays, please call 608-257-0440 or tell us how we can reach you online today.