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Worker’s Compensation for Back and Neck Injuries in Wisconsin

Back and neck injuries can be debilitating. Your spine carries the weight of your body, and also protects the nerves that power everything you do. From numbness, tingling and pain in your arms and legs, to loss of strength in your hands, a disc herniation or other spine injury has far-reaching consequences for your ability to function. If you injure your back or neck at work, you may be off work for a significant period of time; you may possibly even lose your job. One silver lining, however, is Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation law provides for loss of earning capacity benefits for neck and back injuries; these benefits are not available for injuries to some other body parts.

Traumatic vs. Occupational Back & Neck Work Injuries

Every Wisconsin worker should remember there are two kinds of work injuries for your neck and back: traumatic injury and occupational injury. A traumatic injury occurs all at once, such as picking up an object and feeling a pop in your back. An occupational injury occurs gradually over time, such as when a worker constantly works overhead with neck bent backwards, and one day the worker wakes up and cannot move his or her neck. Both traumatic and occupational injuries are compensable under Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation law. If you have a back or neck injury at work, you should immediately report it to your employer and seek medical treatment right away.

Medical Records Matter

A very important aspect of any worker’s compensation claim is what your medical records say. What a doctor says to you verbally does not count nearly as much as what is in the notes. If you have a traumatic back or neck injury, be sure to describe the incident clearly and ask that the doctor include it in the notes. This is even more important when you have an occupational injury where the symptoms develop over time and you only seek treatment when you cannot stand the pain anymore. If you suspect your work activities were a cause of your neck or back condition, be sure to describe your job duties in detail to your doctor and ask for an opinion on whether it contributed to your condition. Remember, your work activity does not have to be “the” cause of your back or neck problems, only “a” cause. The critical technical term is your work activities must be a material contributory causative factor, which the Labor and Industry Review Commission has held to be as little as a 5% to 10% contribution.

Back and Neck Worker’s Compensation Injuries are Common

Although most people know what a traumatic work injury is, many people do not know about occupational work injuries, at least for low back and neck conditions. In fact, it is fair to say many people who have done heavy labor for a long period of time probably have an occupational back or neck work comp injury. Perhaps someone you know has retired from their job as, say, a construction worker because they “have a bad back.” Chances are the heavy work contributed to this back injury, and the worker should be claiming worker’s compensation, if a doctor will say in writing that the condition is work related.

Loss of Earning Capacity and Retraining Benefits After a Back or Neck Injury

It is common for people to be unable to return to work or lose their job due to a back or neck worker’s comp injury. If that occurs, an injured worker can claim loss of earning capacity or retraining benefits. Loss of earning capacity claims, in particular, can be significant, depending on the facts of the case; this is why many low back and neck injury claims are initially denied by worker’s compensation insurance, or disputed halfway through, or after surgery is planned. If you have a denied or disputed neck or back worker’s comp injury, contact us. We at Hawks Quindel have extensive experience in dealing with these worker’s compensation insurance companies and dealing with denied or improperly adjusted worker’s comp claims. Our team of dedicated worker’s comp lawyers can advise you of your rights, appeal denied claims, and get the maximum compensation you are entitled to under Wisconsin law.

Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Statute of Limitations

One last thing to keep in mind. We have said it before, but it bears repeating:

For all traumatic injuries occurring after March 2, 2016, the statute of limitations is 6 years from the date of injury or the date worker’s comp money was last paid to you, whichever is later. For all occupational injuries (regardless of injury date) the statute of limitations is still 12 years from the date of injury or the date that worker’s comp money was last paid to you, whichever is later.

The date of injury for an occupational injury is the first day you lost wages due to the condition, or the date of retirement. So if you had a job that was hard on your low back or neck, you retired early because of your neck or back, and you told your doctor(s) at the time of treatment that your work was hard on your neck or back, you can still claim Wisconsin worker’s comp benefits for up to 12 years from your date of retirement. Give us a call if that is the case.

Luke Kingree

Worker's Compensation Attorney at Hawks Quindel, S.C.
Luke Kingree is a worker’s compensation lawyer at the Madison and Eau Claire offices of Hawks Quindel. Prior to representing injured workers, Attorney Kingree defended insurance companies against worker’s compensation claims. This experience, along with practicing with former worker’s compensation judges, has prepared him well to assist injured workers.