Wisconsin's workers' compensation laws can be difficult to understand. If you've been hurt in the course of employment, however, confusion about the benefits you're entitled to receive can only serve to aggravate your injury. With that in mind, here are answers to five of the most commonly asked questions following an on-the-job injury in Wisconsin.
1. What benefits are available to me if I'm hurt while on the job?
This depends on whether your injury is considered permanent or temporary. Injured workers are generally entitled to receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage and coverage for medical, hospital and doctor expenses resulting from the injury. However, the calculation of benefits is not always straightforward and employers and insurance companies often underestimate this average weekly wage or fail to factor in overtime.
2. How long do workers' comp benefits last?
The benefits you receive through workers' compensation will last until your doctor has deemed that your healing is complete and you're ready to return to work. If your on-the-job injury has left you with a permanent disability that requires ongoing restrictions (such as no heavy lifting or no bending), you will continue to receive benefits according to the disability as defined by your doctor. If your injury is severe enough that you'll never be able to return to your former job, you may qualify for retraining benefits.
3. Can I pick my own doctor?
In general, yes. Your employer can opt to get treatment for you from their doctor in emergency situations, and if there's any dispute over your case, your employer can have their doctor evaluate (but not treat) you. In all other circumstances, you have the right to pick your own doctor.
4. What happens if a work injury aggravates a pre-existing injury?
You are still entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits, even if you were more susceptible to repeat injury due to a past injury. The law assumes that your employer accepts you "as-is," and you remain eligible to receive benefits for medical expenses, lost work time and any permanent restrictions that result from your work-related injury.
5. Can I still get benefits if I was hurt while intoxicated or doing something unsafe?
You remain eligible for benefits, even if you failed to comply with your employer's safety rules or you were working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, your compensation can be reduced by 15 percent. Note that if you violated a safety rule due to inadequately-maintained equipment or lack of notice about the rule, your benefits cannot be reduced.
For more specific information on your workers' comp situation, contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney in Milwaukee today.