Wisconsin workers’ compensation pays valuable benefits to workers with occupational injuries and illnesses. These benefits can include weekly payments to offset wage loss, payments for medical treatment, and other compensation. However, benefit payments vary, depending on the nature of your claim. Learn how Wisconsin calculates workers’ comp benefits below.
In Wisconsin, the following types of benefits are available through workers’ comp:
Wisconsin sets a maximum weekly workers’ compensation benefit each year ($961 in 2017). To receive these benefits, you must make a timely claim for benefits. To learn more, read our article about how to file a Wisconsin workers’ comp claim.
Temporary disability benefits are paid while you are recovering from your injuries. In Wisconsin, you may be eligible for either temporary total disability (TTD) or temporary partial disability (TPD). These benefits are not paid for your first three days off work, unless your disability lasts more than seven days.
If you’re unable to perform any type of work, you will be eligible for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to the state’s maximum benefit ($961 in 2017). TTD benefits are paid until you either return to work or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI occurs when your doctor determines that your condition will no longer improve with treatment.
If you can return to work, but you aren’t able to earn as much, Wisconsin workers’ comp pays a partial benefit. Your temporary partial disability (TPD) benefit is two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury wages. For example, if you used to earn $600 in weekly wages, but you now can only earn $300, you would get $200 in TPD benefits ($600 - $300 = $300; .6666 x $300 = $200.)
Once your doctor determines you are at MMI, you will be evaluated for a permanent disability. You are entitled to permanent total disability (PTD) benefits if your injury or occupational illness prevents you from performing any type of work. Certain injuries, including the loss of both eyes, arms, or legs, are presumed to be totally and permanently disabling. Other serious injuries may also qualify. PTD benefits are paid at the same rate as TTD and last as long as you are totally disabled (potentially for life).
In Wisconsin, there are two types of permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits: scheduled loss and unscheduled loss. Unlike other workers’ compensation benefits, PPD benefits are not based on your average weekly wage. Instead, Wisconsin sets a weekly rate for both scheduled and unscheduled losses each year ($362 in 2017).
You are eligible for scheduled loss benefits if you’ve had an amputation of, or lost the functional use of, a body part listed in Wisconsin’s schedule. These benefits are available regardless of whether you’re able to work or suffer a reduction in wages. For amputation or a total loss of use of a listed body part, you will receive benefits for the period of time stated in the schedule. The schedule awards the following number of weeks for each listed body part:
The schedule also covers the loss of fingers, toes, and other body parts. (The Wisconsin Division of Workers’ Compensation publishes its entire schedule on its website.) If you suffer a partial loss of a listed body part, benefits are paid proportionately. For example, if you suffer a 50 percent loss of use of your hand, you will receive 200 weeks of benefits (400 x 0.5 = 200 weeks).
If your permanent disability is to a body part that is not listed on Wisconsin’s schedule (such as your lungs or back), you will be eligible for unscheduled benefits. Once you reach MMI, your doctor will assign you a permanent impairment rating, stated as a percentage of lost body function. For an unscheduled loss, you will receive this percentage of 1,000 weeks of benefits. For example, suppose a back injury resulted in a 15 percent loss of body function. You will receive 150 weeks of benefits (1,000 x 0.15 = 150 weeks).
If you’re unable to earn at least 85% of your pre-injury wages due to an unscheduled loss, you can receive a higher award. A vocational expert will review your case and assign a percentage of lost earning capacity. This higher percentage will then be used to calculate your benefits. If you have questions about unscheduled benefits and loss of earning capacity, contact a workers’ compensation lawyer.
If an injury or illness results in death, the worker’s dependents may receive death benefits. Death benefits can be up to four times the worker’s annual wages (subject to a maximum benefit). Additionally, the insurance company must pay up to $10,000 for the worker’s reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
Contact a lawyer immediately if the workers’ compensation insurance company disputes your claim or reduces your benefits due to perceived wage earning capacity. A workers’ compensation lawyer can evaluate your claim and ensure that you receive the maximum benefits allowed in your claim. To learn more, see our articles on finding and hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer.