How Does the Workers’ Compensation Process Work in Wisconsin?

How Does the Workers’ Compensation Process Work in Wisconsin?

When an employee is injured at work, in most cases a workers’ compensation claim is the only remedy allowed against an employer.[1]  Unlike other personal injury lawsuits (like car accidents – which are brought in civil court), workers’ compensation in Wisconsin is governed under statute and handled by the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Division (the “Division”).  Thus instead of a filing being made in civil court, a workers’ compensation claim is first handled internally by the Division.

The workers’ compensation process in Wisconsin provides for the administration of a claim, the possibility of a disputed claim being referred to the Division’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit, a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, and an appeal to the Labor and Industry Review Commission.  From there, an appeal can be made to circuit court.

How Much Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Division distributes benefits to employees with work-related injuries or conditions.  These benefits typically include:

  • Medical treatment reimbursement
  • Temporary disability benefits
  • Permanent disability benefits
  • Vocational rehabilitation benefits

If an individual becomes temporarily unable to work due to a workplace injury or occupational disease, they will usually receive two-thirds of their average wage (up to a fixed maximum amount).  If a worker is permanently disabled and unable to perform the work they were doing before the injury, they could be eligible to receive long-term or lump-sum benefits.

Can I Bring a Claim Against Someone Other Than My Employer for a Workplace Injury?

Generally, the worker’s compensation statutes provide your exclusive remedy when you are injured on the job.  In some limited circumstances, if someone other than your employer was responsible for your work injury, you can sue that person or company and still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Being Able to Sue a Non-Employer for a Workplace Injury?

The two biggest benefits are that potential damages are not limited to those available in the Worker’s Compensation Act, and that an injured worker can specifically recover for pain and suffering against a non-employer responsible for a workplace injury.

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on My Workers’ Compensation Award in Wisconsin?

No. In Wisconsin, injured employees do not pay tax on workers’ compensation awards for job-related illness or injuries.

However, this exemption does not apply to retirement plan benefits that an individual receives based on age, length of work, or prior contributions, even if an individual retires because of an occupational sickness or injury.

How Much Does an Experienced Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Attorney Cost?

Under Wisconsin law, legal fees for workers’ compensation matters are normally limited to 20% of the recovery.

Do Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Work on a Contingency Fee in Wisconsin?

Yes. This means that your worker’s compensation lawyer is only entitled to a fee if compensation is obtained.  If you don’t receive compensation, you will not owe any attorney fee.

How Are Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Paid for Claims Against Non-Employers?

We provide contingency fee representation for both workers’ compensation claims against an employer and a personal injury claim against someone else (like a defective equipment manufacturer).  The workers’ compensation contingency fee is generally capped at 20% under Wisconsin law, while the contingency fee against the non-employer is higher, and usually depends upon whether a trial is necessary.  Our fees are set forth in our retention agreement.

Am I Entitled to Workers’ Compensation if I Was Partially at Fault for My Injuries in Wisconsin?

Yes.  Worker’s compensation insurance in Wisconsin is a no-fault system, meaning that an injured worker is entitled to benefits regardless of who caused an accident.

In exchange for providing medical care and partial compensation for lost wages, employers are typically insulated from civil liability.  This means that it is usually challenging to file a lawsuit against an employer who offers workers’ compensation except in very rare cases in which an employer knew about particularly dangerous conditions.

However, there are sometimes other third parties who may be responsible for an injury, opening them up to being sued in civil court.  For example, if a negligent driver causes an accident that injures a traveling employee, the negligent driver may be liable.  When you hire Bartells and Pease, we will leave no stone unturned in identifying all potentially liable parties, so you have the best chances of securing maximum compensation for your losses.

Do All Wisconsin Employers Have to Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance? 

No.  Certain employers – such as railroads, longshore companies, tribal entities, and the federal government – are exempt from state workers’ compensation requirements, as their employees are covered under other work injury statutes.

In general, Wisconsin, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance unless they qualify for self-insured status.  Employers must carry insurance if their business:

  • Employs three or more full-time or part-time employees;
  • Employs one or more full-time or part-time employees to whom an employer has paid combined gross wages of $500 or more in any calendar quarter
  • Is a farm that employs six or more workers on the same day for any twenty days during the calendar year; or
  • Is an out-of-state employer (the policy must be with a Wisconsin insurance company, and Wisconsin must be covered in the policy)[2]

When Should I Consult with a Worker’s Compensation Lawyer for My Wisconsin Work Injury Case?

Typically, the sooner you consult with an experienced workers’ comp attorney, the better it will be for you.  Many rigid deadlines must be followed, and even slight missteps can result in unnecessary delays or denial of benefits.  We help injured workers not only in representing their interests and seeking full compensation, but also in assisting them through the process and answering questions like:

  • How long do I have to report an injury?
  • Do I have to go to a company doctor?
  • Do I have to go back to work if my Company doctor tells me I can?
  • What should I do if I can’t perform my job duties because of my injuries?
  • What should I do if my doctor stops treatment before I am healed?
  • What should I do if I am not getting paid or being underpaid for time off work?

Our Experience

The procedures for workers’ compensation claims are challenging, and benefits can be cut off unexpectedly.  At Bartells & Pease, our Wisconsin workers’ comp lawyers know about all of the benefits injured workers are entitled to receive after a workplace accident. That includes being paid for time off work, medical care, therapy, job training, and even a potential lump sum settlement.

As a Wausau, Wisconsin workers’ compensation law firm, we can provide answers when questions arise, providing you and your family with peace of mind knowing that your best interests are being looked after.

[1] There are some notable exceptions for classes of workers that are not covered under state workers’ compensation laws, such as employees working for the federal government, those work on interstate railroads, those for working under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, employees loading and unloading vessels covered under the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, and certain other types of workers.

[2] Worker’s Compensation Employer Resources, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development,

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