If you are injured on the job or during the course of your employment, it is important to understand workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a form of state-mandated insurance which most Wisconsin employers are required to carry. This insurance provides no-fault benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages in the event of a worker injury at a predetermined rate.
Workers’ compensation is a trade-off. The employee loses the right to sue the employer for compensation in court. This is good in the sense that workers can receive guaranteed benefits without going through the time and uncertainty of litigation. But it is bad in that workers’ compensation payouts are typically a fraction of what an injured worker might obtain at trial. Keep in mind, workers’ compensation payouts are established by law do not account for an individual employee’s actual pain or suffering. For example, a recent article noted a Wisconsin employee who loses three fingers in an industrial accident would only receive about $9,000 from workers’ compensation, while that same person could receive a multi-million dollar damage in a personal injury lawsuit.
Wisconsin Legislators Considering Workers’ Comp Changes
Despite loss of access to the courts and the small payouts, some Wisconsin legislators have proposed changes which would further limit the ability of employees’ to receive workers’ compensation. On November 10, a group of seven state representatives and two state senators introduced Assembly Bill 501. If passed, this bill would make a number of sweeping changes to Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation system.
Among other things, the bill would bar an employee from receiving workers’ compensation benefits if he or she “knowingly and willfully made a false representation as to his or her physical condition in an employment application,” and the employer subsequently claims it hired the employee based on such misrepresentations. This means an employer could get off the hook entirely for paying workers’ compensation even if it admits responsibility for causing the employee’s injury.
A second provision would allow employers to avoid paying temporary disability benefits during an employee’s recuperation by simply firing them. Current law requires employers to pay temporary benefits unless an employee is suspected or convicted of a crime or workplace drug violation. Bill 501 would add termination for “misconduct” to the grounds for denying benefits, which is broadly defined as any “violation or disregard of standards of behavior” set by the employer.
Bill 501 would also restrict an injured worker’s choice of medical provider. The current system allows an employee to seek treatment from any medical provider licensed to practice in Wisconsin (and even unlicensed providers with the employer’s consent). But under the proposed legislation, if an employer offers health insurance, the employee’s choice will be limited to medical providers covered by the company’s plan. And if the employer does not offer health insurance, Bill 501 would allow it to unilaterally dictate the employee’s health care provider.
Need Help from an Attorney?
Laws are constantly changing, which is why it is important to seek competent legal advice from an experienced Appleton personal injury lawyer. Contact the Waupaca criminal defense attorneys at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, today if you need to speak with a qualified Oshkosh personal injury lawyer right away.