New Work Comp Law: Increased Benefits for Workers!

by | Apr 1, 2024 | Advisory Council, Legislation, Workers' Compensation - News

Governor Signs Work Comp Advisory Council Bill

Governor Tony Evers, on Friday, March 22, 2023, signed a new bill impacting worker’s compensation benefits. The new law (2023 WI Act 213) comes from the Wisconsin worker’s compensation advisory council.  The Council is the group of labor and management members (and insurance industry advisors) that meet and collectively agree to reasoned, vetted, and incremental changes to the worker’s compensation system.  The Council then produces an Agreed-Upon bill to send to the legislature for approval. This process has made Wisconsin a gold standard around the country–producing a stable work comp system with ever-declining premiums for Wisconsin’s employers.

The Council bill was approved by the legislature this session, and Governor Evers now signed the new bill into law.  The provisions are effective as of March 24, 2024.

You can find the press release on the new law here: Gov. Evers Signs Worker’s Compensation Agreed-Upon Bill into Law.

What Are the Increased Benefits for Injured Workers?

The new law provides increased Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits for injured workers:

  • The PPD rate for work injuries on/after March 24, 2024, has been increased to $438/week (increased from $430/week)
  • The PPD rate for work injuries on/after January 1, 2025, has been increased to $446/week.

After a work injury, if a physician assigns a Percentage of Permanent Partial Disability, the worker receives a “value” that is determined by the body part injured and the percentage of permanent disability (i.e., how “wrecked” is the body part).  Each body part has a defined statutory weekly value; for example, a completed damaged knee is “worth” 425 wks, a shoulder is equal to 500 weeks, and a back is equal to 1000 weeks.   Accordingly, if there is a 10% PPD to an injured worker’s shoulder, the worker receives 100 weeks (10% of 500) at the PPD rate in effect as of the date of injury.

With the new law, that means increased benefits for workers.  For example, if a worker has an injury on/after March 23rd this year, a total knee replacement (“worth” 50% PPD) is equal to $93,075 (212.50 weeks @ $438.wk); a total shoulder replacement (“worth” 50% PPD) is equal to $109,500 (250 weeks @ $438/wk), and a low back fusion surgery (“worth” 10% of a spine) is equal to $43,800 (100 weeks @ $438/wk).  These are big values for a work injury.

What Are the Other Provisions of the New Law?

The newly signed agreed-upon bill has some additional changes to Chapter 102 (the Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Act):

  • Advanced payouts. When a worker receives a PPD rating, the weekly payments occur over the specified amount of weeks–meaning over a period of time.  The new law allows a worker’s compensation carrier–at their discretion–to pay the entire amount of PPD upfront in a lump sum.  The carrier can do this without the worker having their benefits reduced by an interest credit. (Traditionally, a worker could request an advancement of accepted benefits, but there was a 5% interest credit that reduced the overall benefit).  With the new law, the worker could petition the work comp carrier to voluntarily advance their entire PPD benefit upfront. Conversely, for administrative efficiency, a work comp carrier may elect to simply pay out the entire PPD in a lump sum to get it off their books faster.  (Note that the new law makes no reference to the statute of limitations impact with an advancement; presumably and consistent with current law, the statute of limitations would begin running as of the date the PPD would have been paid out had their been no advancement).
  • Case closure clarification between agencies.  After January 11, 2016, the unified “one-stop-shop” state worker’s compensation agency was split between two agencies, with most Administrative Law Judges handling adjudicatory matters under the state of Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Hearings and Appeals (DHA), and administrative personnel (wage issues, dispute resolution, and other matters) with the state of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). With the bifurcation, issues arose regarding lines of demarcation between the agencies on a number of issues, including file control and closure.  The new law clarifies that following a DHA Order approving a compromise agreement or an Order after hearing (assuming no pending appeal), the file control returns to DWD 30 days after the Order.  The new law then indicates that DWD has “exclusive authority” to close a worker’s compensation case.

Overall, these are not earth-shattering provisions to the work comp law, but such is expected with the Advisory Council Agreed-Upon Bill process. These reasoned changes hope to continue the stability of Wisconsin’s successful system.



FindLaw Network