Vision impairment caused by work conditions: do I have a case?

Workers covered under the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act can claim worker’s compensation benefits for eye injuries. However, there are distinct procedural differences between bringing forward a claim for compensation for an impairment to the eye(s) and for impairments to other body parts.

First and foremost, eye injuries are distinct given how medical support is documented. As with any worker’s compensation case, medical support is provided in the form of a certified report. Certified medical reports are in the form of a WKC-16, WKC-16-A, or WKC-16-B   (http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/wc/about_us/formsorder.htm) and herein lies an important procedural difference between eye injuries and injuries to other body parts. For eye injuries, the WKC-16-A Physician Report on Eye Injuries (http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dwd/forms/wkc/pdf/wkc_16_a.pdf) is the distinct report that is used by a physician to answer questions as to the cause, nature, and extent of a worker’s eye injury.

Furthermore, pursuant to Wis. Stats. Sec. 102.17(1)(d)1, “[c]ertified reports of physicians, podiatrists, surgeons, psychologists, and chiropractors are admissible as evidence of the diagnosis, necessity of the treatment, and cause and extent of the disability. Certified reports by doctors of dentistry, physician assistants, and advanced practice nurse prescribers are admissible as evidence of the diagnosis and necessity of treatment but not of the cause and extent of disability.”

This section of the Wisconsin Statutes provides another important distinction for eye injuries – that is, which doctors (e.g., ophthalmologists, optometrists, or opticians) can fill out a certified report for an eye injury. The language in Sec. 102.17(1)(d)1 does not explicitly name “ophthalmologists” or “optometrists” or “opticians”; however, it does name “physicians.”

In short, the term “physician” under the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act means a person holding a Doctor of Medicine degree (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (D.O.) Thus, given that ophthalmologists are doctors which have either an M.D. or D.O., only they are able to fill out a certified report (WKC-16-A) regarding an injured worker’s diagnosis, necessity of treatment, and cause and extent of disability.

Therefore, if you suffer an eye injury at work, it is important to establish care with an ophthalmologist given that, as a doctor of medicine or osteopathic medicine, an ophthalmologist can fill out the necessary WKC-16-A report regarding the cause, nature, and extent of any disability.

Lastly, eye injuries are distinct in when permanent partial disability (PPD) can be assessed. Pursuant to Wis. Admin. Code § 80.26(6), an assessment for disability can only be made “until all adequate and reasonable operations and treatment known to medical science have been attempted to correct the defect” to the eye(s). What this means is that any claims for PPD for the eye(s) can only be made once the doctor and patient have exhausted all treatment.

Eye injuries are distinct under the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act, and that is why it is vital to contact an experienced, knowledgeable worker’s compensation attorney if you suffer an injury to your eye(s).

Posted on December 14, 2016 @ 2:35 pm

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