Most employers in Wisconsin are subject to the state’s worker’s compensation law. This means when a worker is injured in the course of employment, worker’s compensation coverage pays for things like medical care, partial lost wages, and permanent losses of bodily functions and movements. Most importantly, pain and suffering is generally not included. Wisconsin worker’s comp coverage is broad, generally including work-related injuries no matter where they occur.
You have a right to be compensated for the costs of your care, your rehabilitation, and for part of the income you would have earned had your injury not kept you out of work and caused you wage loss. However, in certain circumstances, you may also be able to get compensation for pain and suffering by pursuing a responsible third party. In other words, neither you nor your employer caused the injury, but a “third party” caused your injury while you were at work.
A work-related injury can be a one-time trauma (like injuring yourself in a fall or getting hurt while using company equipment), but it can also be an “occupational disease” or exposure like a respiratory illness caused by long-term exposure to chemicals, repetitive stress injuries, overuse injuries (I.e. “I got hurt when I overdid it”), disability from your job “wearing out” your body and the like.
When an injury occurs at an employer’s place of business, there is rarely a question about whether the incident should be covered by worker’s compensation. For example, if you hurt your back as the result of slipping and falling in the company bathroom, worker’s compensation should cover your expenses. But, what about an injury sustained while you were working but weren’t on your company’s property? The short answer is that worker’s compensation generally still applies and that you may also have the case that calls for pain and suffering against another party.
In determining whether worker’s compensation laws apply, the test is whether the injury was caused by the employment. This is generally construed broadly, meaning worker’s compensation is meant to cover employee and employer for all services that can in any sense be said to reasonably come within your employment. Disputes in work comp cases arise more often about the medical cause and extent of the injury, rather than coverage of the activity for the employer. In addition to injuries suffered at your employer’s place of business, worker’s compensation may cover:
While your employer’s worker’s comp insurance should cover many injuries sustained outside the workplace for the medical expenses and part of your lost income, this can be a double-edged sword. Worker’s comp benefits do not make you whole and cover all your losses. Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation laws do not provide damages for pain and suffering or even cover your full wage loss. Unfortunately, this means that your right to recover what you lose in a work-related injury is limited.
If your injury occurred at your employer’s place of business, you typically will not be able to obtain damages for pain and suffering unless some outside party contributed to the cause of your injury. One example might be a contractor’s faulty workmanship – like the cleaning company that left a mess in the bathroom where you slipped and fell. Another example might be a claim against the manufacturer of an unsafe piece of equipment that injured you.
But in certain cases where you got hurt outside the office and someone else’s negligent or careless actions caused the injury, you may be able to claim your pain and suffering and full wage loss, even though such damages would otherwise be barred by worker’s comp. If you file a lawsuit against the responsible party and that party is not your employer, you can cover more than just worker’s comp.
Regardless of where your work-related injury occurs, you have rights. An experienced Wisconsin worker’s compensation attorney can help you fight for the benefits you are owed under worker’s compensation laws. If a third-party was wholly or partially responsible for causing your injuries, your attorney can also help you determine if it makes sense to file a lawsuit for damages to compensate you for your pain and suffering and lost wages – past, present, and future.
At Schott, Bublitz & Engel, we help clients with worker’s compensation claims and appeals, as well as with personal injury matters and these issues with third parties that have caused work injuries. To find out more and to schedule a free case review, contact us in Waukesha by calling 262.827.1700.