Tag Archives: workplace injury

Injuries to In-Home Care Providers: Compensable?

Home care providers may or may not be considered to be employees of the person they are caring for.

A growing segment of the workforce involves individuals providing in-home medical care and assistance to private individuals. The assistance can range from a few hours per day, to 24/7 medical and domestic care for incapacitated individuals.

If the in-home care provider gets hurt while performing work duties, does this entitle the care provider to worker’s compensation benefits?

In a previous blog post, we discussed nannies, baby-sitters and domestic servants. “Home care providers” are treated differently (though an argument could be made that the care recipients from a nanny or from an in-home care provider are equally dependent — a baby and an elderly individual often have similar needs). The Commission held that persons providing personal/medical care to an “invalid” are not domestic servants (and thus, not statutorily exempt from the Act’s coverage). (Ambrose v. Harley Vandeveer Family Trust, WC Claim No. 86-39393 (LIRC Feb. 28, 1989); Winkler v. Vivian Smith, WC. Claim No. 1998059089 (LIRC Jun 29, 2000))

The Department generally considers that persons hired in a private home to give primary care to an individual whose duties involve assisting  in walking, bathing, preparing meals and special diets, supervising use of medications and exercise therapy and other duties commonly associated with the meaning of primary-care giver, meet the definition of home-care provider.

 If the domestic servant exemption does not apply, the question is: are home care providers to be considered as employees of the cared-for individual?

Interestingly, another statutory exception which may apply involves that of the cared-for individuals enterprise, as the person providing personal/medical care does not perform these services as part of the trade, business, occupation or profession of the cared-for individual (102.07(4)(a)2). Since the cared-for individual is not in the business of providing in-home care, there would be no worker’s compensation coverage, unless the cared-for individual elects to award these. Thus, the Department, based on this statutory exception, suggests that no employer-employee relationship exists under the Act.

As the Commission has left this issue largely undecided in the case of a private cared-for individual hiring their care provider, arguments exist both for and against coverage. Alternatively, if a county referred the home care provider to the individual and the county set the provider’s rate of pay, the county is the employer for worker’s compensation purposes. (See Cobb v. County of Barron, WC Claim No. 2006-043003 (LIRC Dec. 11, 2008); Nickell v. Kewaunee County, WC Claim No. 94064155 (LIRC Sept. 24, 1996)).


Leading Causes of Workplace Injuries in Wisconsin, and in the US

Employers who invest in ergonomic chairs for the office may be on to something: back injuries are, to date, the most significant liability exposure.

Five leading causes of workplace injuries account for nearly ¾ of the nation’s worker’s compensation costs.  Research compiled by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, using data collected on injuries causing at least six missed work days, listed the following causes of workplace injury:

  1. Overexertion, injuries caused by lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, and carrying;
  2. A fall onto the same surface (16% of the total injury cost);
  3. Falls from a height;
  4. Bodily reaction (injuries from bending, climbing, reaching, standing, sitting, slipping);
  5. Being struck by an object.

Rounding out the top ten are: (6) injuries caused by highway incidents; (7) body parts caught in machines, or (8)body parts struck against an object; (9) repetitive motion injuries; and (10)workplace assaults.

The Wisconsin Division of Worker’s Compensation Research and Statistic Bureau categorizes injuries by the body part and nature of injury (amputation, burn, strain, for example).  According to their statistics, strains and lifting injuries regularly represent the most prevalent type of injury.

Injuries involving the lower back area outstrip any other body part in Wisconsin followed by knees, shoulders, and fingers.  In terms of causation, lifting, pushing, pulling and straining are the most prevalent causes.

Back injuries represent a significant liability exposure to employers, primarily because Continue reading