What Does a Workers Compensation Lawyer do in Wisconsin?

workers’ compensation lawyer

A Wisconsin workers compensation lawyer practices a very specialized area of personal injury.  It involves an injury that occurs to the body occurring in the workplace.  In Wisconsin, the body of law governing this type of injury can be found in the Workers Compensation Act under Chapter 102 of the statutes.  If you are employed, meaning you receive a paycheck and have taxes withheld, then an employer-employee relationship exists.  If during such employment you are hurt in the course and scope of this employment then your injury will be covered under an insurance policy purchased by your employer, known as workers compensation insurance.  Injuries occurring in the course and scope of your employment need to be timely reported and medical treatment sought.  The benefits available to an injured worker are (1) lost time (termed TTD or TPD) if you miss work due to the injury either because you are totally unable to work, or you have physical restrictions from doing your full work and the employer does not offer you accommodating work.  Also, all your (2) medical treatment and (3) medical mileage required to attend medical appointments should be paid/reimbursed to you in the amount of .51 cents a mile.  Another benefit paid to an injured worker is (4) disability for permanent, long-lasting injuries (termed PPD) that affect you physically and/or mentally.  Lastly, (5) claims can be made for losses in future earnings, or vocational claims for future retraining if unable to return after an injury to comparable paying work.

What is the benefit of hiring a workers compensation lawyer?

The Wisconsin Workers Compensation Act is about 250 pages long and very technical; it takes years for an attorney to confidently practice this area of the law.  Hiring a workers compensation lawyer ensures that you are getting every benefit you are entitled to under this law.  A Wisconsin lawyer who dedicates their practice to representing injured workers knows the intricacies necessary to develop the claim from building evidence, to meeting deadlines, completing and filing appropriate documentation, undertaking the necessary communication and appearances with the workers compensation insurance carrier and Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development in presenting/arguing the work injury claim at a hearing, or negotiating the claim for settlement with the insurance carrier.  The process can be intimidating and stressful.  The injured worker is better served concentrating their time, attention, and energies in healing than trying to act as their own attorney.

How much does it cost to hire a workers compensation lawyer and who pays the attorney fee?

In Wisconsin, hiring a workers compensation lawyer is done on a contingency fee basis.  This means that the attorney is paid contingent upon the injured worker getting paid.  According to the Wisconsin Workers Compensation Act, an attorney can take no more than 20% of the amount recovered for the injured worker, but it cannot include amounts for the recovery of the medical expenses.

It is wrong to think that hiring an attorney on a contingency fee basis is “free” because ultimately at the end of the case, the monies come out of the proceeds recovered for the injured worker.  But, keep in mind, if the injured worker’s claim has been denied then no money is being received by the injured worker.  So, hiring a workers compensation attorney is a very good investment where the injured worker invests/pay nothing at the beginning of their case and the attorney only gets paid if/when the client gets paid.  The injured worker gets a check directly from the insurance carrier and their attorney gets a check at an 80/20% split.

What is the difference between going to a Hearing versus a Settlement in workers compensation?

A Hearing involves a presentation of the facts, medical evidence, and testimony to a Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Administrative Law Judge who will make a legal determination as to the work-relatedness of a work injury and award past and future workers compensation benefits.  Such a determination can be appealed by either side to the Wisconsin Labor & Industry Review Commission.  The Hearing generally lasts no more than one day and involves direct cross-examination of the injured worker and other relevant witnesses.  Exhibits are entered into the record as evidence, such as medical records and reports from supporting and opposing doctors.  Ultimately, it is the injured workers opportunity to formally present their work injury claim to an adjudicator who will make a legal determination either awarding or denying benefits, in whole or in part.

A Settlement involves an offer of money from the workers compensation insurance carrier to the Wisconsin injured worker to settle their workers compensation injury claim short of going to a formal hearing.  It involves a reduced or discounted amount of money compared to what the injured worker could potentially get awarded at the hearing, if victorious in everything pled and argued.  The majority of Wisconsin workers compensation injury claims settle because a good outcome at the hearing is never guaranteed for either side.  Even good outcomes at the hearing can and likely will be appealed by the losing party, thereby delaying any monetary recovery and costing money due to prolonged litigation.

How long does it take to get the money after a workers compensation settlement?

If a settlement between a Wisconsin injured worker and workers compensation insurance company is achieved, then paperwork in the form of an Agreement will be created describing the terms as either a Full and Final Compromise Agreement or a Limited Compromise Agreement.  Such an agreement is signed by all the parties, and their attorneys, and then presented to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for approval from an administrative law judge.  The Administrative Law Judge (a/k/a ALJ) reviews the Agreement ensuring that it meets certain perimeters and requirements dictated by the Wisconsin Workers Compensation Act and Department policies.  If approved, the Agreement is then turned into a written Order which is dated and signed by an ALJ.  The insurance company then has twenty-one (21) days from the date of the Order to get the settlement monies in the mail or electronically transferred to the injured worker.