If you are injured at work, generally a worker’s compensation claim is the only remedy. In other words, you cannot sue your employer in civil court to recover monetary damages above and beyond the benefits provided by Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation statute. 

There are certain situations, however, when a personal injury claim might be appropriate in the workplace. Most often, this is when a third party (someone other than your employer or coworkers) is involved. For instance, if you got into a car accident during the workday, then you may have a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver1. Similarly, if you were injured while working, but the injury was due to a dangerous condition on a third party’s premises, you may sue that third party in civil court.

Personal Injury Claims vs. Worker’s Compensation Claims

Some advantages of pursuing a third-party claim are:

  1. You hold the responsible party accountable for their wrongdoing, and
  2. You can recover damages for the full extent of your injuries.

Unlike worker’s compensation claims which generally disregard the question of ‘who is to blame,’ personal injury claims assign responsibility to the culpable party. Moreover, tort claims allow you to be “made whole.” Not only can you recover payment for your medical bills and a portion of lost wages, but you can also recover damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress. You might further recover punitive damages if the liable party’s conduct was particularly egregious, such as malicious or reckless actions.

Reimbursement to the Worker’s Compensation Carrier

In settling any third party claim, note the worker’s compensation insurance carrier will demand reimbursement for the payments it made. In other words, if the worker’s compensation insurer made payments to the worker after the accident occurred, and later the worker won damages from a third party in court, the insurer will ask to be reimbursed for its payments. The formula for allocating settlement proceeds is governed by Wis. Stat. § 102.29.

The personal injury attorneys at Hawks Quindel have experience working on third party claims. We work alongside the worker’s compensation team to maximize clients’ recoveries. If you have questions about a potential personal injury case, please contact us for a free initial evaluation.

1This may include a claim against a third party driver or a coworker if s/he negligently operated a vehicle not owned or leased by the employer. See Wis. Stat. § 102.03(2).

Danielle Schroder

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