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

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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.