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Workers Compensation - Kent Carnell

Attorney Kent Carnell discusses Workers Compensation with Sly

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Sly- Joining us now, Lawton and Cates, a great sponsor of our program. Kent Carnell with Lawton and Cates. Lawton and Cates a proud tradition of supporting labor and supporting workers rights. Good morning Kent.

Kent- Good morning Sly.

Sly- By the way, what’s your phone number at Lawton and Cates?

Kent- It’s 282-6200.

Sly- Workers compensation law. Injury to workers.

Kent- I thought that would be a good topic. It fits in with what’s being talked about at the capitol with workers’ rights and the government trying to take away workers’ rights especially in the terms of bargaining. The history is interesting because Wisconsin was the first state in the country to pass a workers compensation law, giving workers rights if they are injured on the job.

Sly- That didn’t come automatically?

Kent- It didn’t come automatically.

Sly- And I’m guessing that some of the same progressive forces that gave us some of the other laws, the robber barons didn’t give that up automatically.

Kent- No it was really the progressive tradition of Wisconsin, the Lafollettes, people like that. Workers compensation was passed somewhere around 1913 if I recall correctly.

Sly- So it wasn’t industries?

Kent- It was not.

Sly- What does it mean? So you get injured on the job. Let’s just say this tent falls on my head and I end up with a brain injury.

Kent- Yes you have rights for workers compensation. One of the differences that people don’t always know is that it’s a no fault system meaning that if you are hurt on the job, you have rights to certain compensation which is lost time from work, medical expenses, and if there’s a permanent disability. You do not have the right to sue your employer or a co-employee for causing your injury to get pain and suffering, that type of thing.

Sly- Even if it was the employers fault?

Kent- Correct because the system was, before workers compensation, employees, workers would get hurt and they would not have a good suit against their employer because it was their fault and they ended up with nothing. The workers compensation system always allows you to get compensation for your injury.

Sly- Even if it is your fault you still get compensated?

Kent- Yes it could be the employees fault for putting his hand in a machine for instance and his hand gets cut off, he still gets compensation.

Sly- I have injured myself at work. That is for sure. That is something that so far they haven’t attacked.

Kent- They haven’t attacked that. It’s a statutory right.

Sly- You’re saying this as an attorney which tells me that people still need representation in this area, why?

Kent- Well they do. Probably the vast majority of cases, you do not need a lawyer because the employer or their insurance carrier pays for your time off, pays for your medical expenses. But often there develops a dispute where either the employer says you were not hurt on the job or for instance your back injury is related to something you did before. Or often they send you to a doctor of their choosing who says you’re healed or the injury was not caused by the work injury, that it was preexisting.

Sly- This isn’t as much the employers as it is the employers’ insurance companies, correct?

Kent- For the most part, yes.

Sly- Isn’t it shocking that an insurance company would act in an irresponsible and capricious way? What a shock! Insurance companies have deep pockets.

Kent- Well they do. Under the workers compensation system there is limits to what you can get. What you’re entitled to is set by statute.

Sly- What is temporary total disability?

Kent- Temporary total disability is 2/3 of your average wages which you are entitled to get until you are healed, which a doctor would determine.

Sly- Now all medical expenses are paid?

Kent- All medical expenses are paid.

Sly- No co-pay?

Kent- No co-pay.

Sly- Alright what about permanent, I love this, permanent partial disability. Where do they come up with these phrases?

Kent- Well it is part of the statutory scheme and it’s meant to define certain areas. There are two ways of looking at it. There are scheduled injuries which would be basically arms and legs.

Sly- Did you say scheduled?

Kent- It’s scheduled, meaning it’s set forth in the statute how much you get per injury per part of your body.

Sly- Do you get more for a leg or an arm or vice versa?

Kent- They’re about the same. If you lose an arm it’s worth 500 weeks of disability under the workers compensation.

Sly- Is that where they came up with that phrase, losing an arm and a leg?

Kent- Probably not from this, but it happens.

Sly- What about loss of earning capacity?

Kent- You can get that if it’s an unscheduled injury which is an injury to your torso, head, neck, or back. If it’s an arm or a leg, you cannot get earning capacity. That for instance is you injure your back, you can’t do the job you could do, you’re able to get a lesser paying job. It entitles you to the difference between what you were earning before and what you’re earning now or a percentage, not just the pay.

Sly- Okay if you are injured in a way that you can’t do the job anymore, do you have access to education?

Kent- Yes you can rehabilitation benefits where they have to pay for your schooling and pay you the temporary total disability during the time that you’re going to school.

Sly- I don’t know with the way the governor is cutting the budget for vocational schools, those opportunities may be more limited than they are now. And finally you can sue an employer for safety violations.

Kent- For safety violations you sue the employer.

Sly- Like the Massey mine down in Virginia.

Kent- Yes it’s the employer rather than the insurance carrier. But it’s still limited to 15% or a maximum of $15,000. 15% of the compensation you’re meant to receive.

Sly- Lawton and Cates specializes in this area. And you actually want to hire someone who specializes in a certain area?

Kent- That always makes sense because it’s statutory, it’s very specific. And if you don’t know the ins and outs or the ropes of it, it’s difficult to get a client everything they deserve.

Sly- Lawton and Cates has been doing this for how many years?

Kent- Well I’ve been doing it for over 40 and the firm is over 50 years old so we’ve been doing it since then.

Sly- A long time. Thanks for standing up for workers. Your law firm has a long, proud history, and not only helped with civil service but collective bargaining rights in the first place.

Kent- John Lawton was one of the founding fathers of collective bargaining laws for public employees in the state of Wisconsin.

Sly- It’s sad to say that he’s probably turning over in his grave for what’s happening in that building today.

Kent- I’m sure he is really turning over in great grief because of this.

Sly- Kent Carnell, Lawton and Cates, your website and your phone number?

Kent- and 282-6200

Sly- Thank you.

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