If you were injured while on the job, Wisconsin worker’s compensation laws provide some important protection. You should not be personally liable for paying the reasonable costs of your medical treatment related to the injury; that’s something worker’s compensation covers. In some cases, and depending on the circumstances and the nature of your injuries, you may also be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits that cover some of your pay for missed work time.
When your employer, a co-worker, or even you personally were responsible for your injuries, your recovery will generally be limited to worker’s compensation. In some cases, if another company, customer or contractor (“third party”) is responsible for your injuries, you may have an additional legal claim for compensation. This can include payments for pain and suffering, full wage loss and loss of future earning ability. If you are married or have minor children that are suffering because of your injuries as well, they may also have claims. In those cases, working with a skilled attorney can help protect your rights and interests.
Steps to Take After a Workplace Injury
If you are injured on the job but think another person or company may have some responsibility for causing your injuries, take these steps:
- Photograph and document what hurt you and what you hurt. In a world where nearly everyone has a camera on a phone in their pocket, take photos of what injured you – a faulty machine, a slippery floor, a failed safety mechanism. Similarly, take photos of signage – e.g. warning posters, yellow painted danger zones, out of order signs, etc. This will be important in learning what you, your employer and the third party knew about the dangers you were exposed to before you got hurt. Also, take photos of your injuries. Hopefully bruises will heal and scars will fade, but this does not help you prove that they happened at a trial later on. A picture is worth a thousand words, especially at trial.
- Notify your employer. Regardless of who is responsible for your injuries, you should notify your employer as soon as practical after becoming injured. In some cases, employer notification happens after you receive medical attention. However, don’t forget to take this step because it helps protect your legal rights to Wisconsin worker’s compensation benefits and it may also prevent someone else from getting hurt. If a third party is responsible for the injury, this may be the only opportunity for you and your employer to get the necessary information you would need to sue that party and hold them responsible. In a third party case, you and your employer have a shared interest in recovering from the responsible third party, but your employer cannot help with pursuing that party if you do not notify them of your injury.
- Seek medical attention. Your medical record following a workplace injury is essential, as it documents some of the most critical evidence to prove your claims. Doctors and medical professionals are trained to take a full history of what a medical patient says in describing how an injury occurred. Medical records will also define much about the type and extent of your injuries, and obviously your treatment and rehabilitation needs. Be sure to attend all follow-up visits, take medications as prescribed, do exercises as instructed, and other forms of treatment recommended by the medical professionals who treat your injury. It is meant to help you, and it will also be documented how it is helping when you attend your appointments.
- Document witness information. This may very well be the only time you see the person(s) responsible for your injuries before a lawsuit. Get names. Get phone numbers. If co-workers or others saw what happened when you got injured, it can be helpful to have their accounts of the incident. Besides a name and a phone number, any other witness contact information you can get may be the difference in whether or not a claim can be pursued. A skilled attorney can also help you obtain witness statements. It is likely that an insurance company may be doing the same and probably will not share that information with you, so you should make sure you are as prepared as they will be.
- Contact a worker’s compensation and personal injury attorney. A skilled attorney who handles both worker’s compensation and personal injury cases can help you identify whether you may have a case against one or more third parties. There are certain statutory limitations; an experienced, knowledgeable lawyer can help you determine the merits of pursuing a third-party liability claim vs. simply obtaining standard worker’s compensation benefits. Thousands of dollars may be at stake.
SBE Law May Be Able to Help You Recover Damages for Pain and Suffering
It can be comforting to know that worker’s compensation is there to help protect you financially if you are injured on the job. However, if someone other than your employer or a co-worker was responsible in some way, you may have additional rights and protections under Wisconsin law. Those rights are not automatic, so it is important to hire a skilled lawyer who can help you.
Waukesha-based law firm Schott, Bublitz & Engel has years of experience helping injured workers recover the compensation they are owed under the Wisconsin worker’s compensation program and through additional personal injury actions, when appropriate. To learn more about how we work with clients and to schedule a free review of your case, contact us online or call us at 262.827.1700 today.
By Raymond H. LaBarge
Disclaimer Policy: The information on this website is not legal advice, nor is it intended to be. You should always consult an attorney for advice for your individual situation. We invite you to contact us by letter, by phone or by email. Initial contact creates no attorney-client relationship. Please avoid sending confidential information to us until an attorney-client relationship has been established.
Schott, Bublitz & Engel s.c. has been meeting the legal needs of clients in Wisconsin for over 26 years. As the firm’s reputation has grown, so has the extent of our legal expertise.