In Wisconsin, most employers are required to carry workers compensation insurance, or be self-insured in the event an employee is injured during the course of his or her employment. Workers compensation is not a fault-base system. If you are injured at work, regardless of fault, you may be entitled to compensation. Because workers compensation is not fault-based, insurance companies often attempt to deny claims based upon “pre-existing conditions” or attempt to attribute injuries to “accidents outside the work place”. They also generally will try to rush an employee back to work before they may be fully healed.
If You Are Injured at Work…
The first step is to report the injury to your employer. This report must be made within 30 days of the injury. If the injury is caused by exposure, such as carpal tunnel or hearing loss, you should report it as soon as you are informed that work may be the cause of the injury. After your report has been made, you have up to 12 years from the date of the injury to request a hearing, however, in most cases a denial of benefits should be contested as soon as possible.
An Injured Workers Rights
You are entitled to seek any necessary treatment for your injuries. You are entitled to have medical expenses paid by the employer’s insurance carrier. You are entitled to see a doctor of your choice and if you are unhappy with that doctor, you may choose a second doctor. You have the right to decline the use of a “rehabilitation nurse”, assigned by the insurance carrier. Benefits can not be denied for exercising any of these rights.
If you sustain an injury that is permanent in nature, but does not prevent you from returning to work, you are entitled to permanent partial disability. These injuries can range from loss of a finger, loss of an eye, to back injuries and brain injuries. Payment varies based upon the nature of the injury.
If you are unable to return to your previous occupation, due to injury you are entitled to retraining by the Department of Workforce Development. The purpose of this training is to attempt to restore your earning capacity and is paid for by the employer’s insurance carrier. If you are not restored to your previous level of earnings, you probably are entitled to make a claim for loss of earning capacity.
In the event an employee is killed during the course of his work, the surviving spouse or dependant is entitled to benefits under the law. If a worker dies while receiving workers compensation benefits, the dependant may still be entitled to receive benefits, including burial expenses.
Do I Need an Attorney and How Much Will it Cost?
This is a difficult question for anyone, much less someone who is unable to work and has medical bills accumulating. Attorney’s fees are regulated by the Department of Workforce Development at 20% of the amount of benefits recovered.
The insurance carrier has a staff of adjusters, attorneys, doctors and nurses trained in the law of workers compensation. It is there job to minimize insurance expenses, which means to deny claims, and get injured workers back to work quickly. If you are injured at work, and the insurance company has denied your claim, or is pressuring you back to work, you should consult with an attorney.
At Hetzel Law Office, the initial consultation, by phone or in person, is always free, and you will receive an honest opinion as to the merits of your case.