The healing period in Wisconsin workers compensation law is very important because is defines the time period in which a claim for temporary total disability benefits are due. The phrase “healing period” is not defined in Wis. Stats. Ch. 102 but the courts have interpreted it to mean “the period prior to the time when the condition becomes stationary.” Knobbe v. Indus. Comm’n, 208 Wis. 185, 189 (1932). The Knobbe court explained that during this period, “the employee is submitting to treatment, is convalescing, still suffering from his injury, and unable to work because of the accident. The interval may continue until the employee is restored so far as the permanent character of his injuries will permit.” Knobbe at 190. As the court later stated in Larsen Co. v. Industrial Commission, 9 Wis. 2d 386, 392, (1960), “[a]n employee’s disability is no longer temporary when the point is reached that there has occurred all of the improvement that is likely to occur as a result of treatment and convalescence.” The phrase ‘healing plateau’ is often used to say that the employee is at the end of the healing period.
When a workers comp insurer denies what is later determined necessary treatment, the insurer may be responsible for TTD benefits after the healing plateau is reached. Lee v. Famous Fixtures, WC Claim No. 90-000857 (LIRC July 2, 1997). The injured worker will not be at a disadvantage because he or she was forced to file for a hearing and the time it takes to get a determination in their favor. LIRC rejected the argument that the injured worker should find other resources to pay for the alleged necessary treatment so as to limit the respondents liability. Cordts v. Mains, WC Claim No. 2003-001935 (LIRC July 21, 2005).
Also, the workers comp insurer is liable for paying TTD if work-related surgery is delayed due to an unrelated medical condition (weak heart delaying surgery), if the work-related condition still makes the worker unable to work. ITW Deltar v. LIRC, 226 Wis. 2d 11 (Ct. App. 1999).
There is also an unpublished court of appeals case finding that TTD should continue during the time a worker is not under medical care because he or she did not have health insurance to pay for treatment. Timberline Cedar Werks, Inc. v. LIRC, No. 2009AP2272 , 2010 WL 2384545 (Wis. Ct. App. June 16, 2010).
The healing period cannot be established, in other words extended or reduced, retrospectively. A treating doctor cannot at a later dater enlarge or create a healing period, he or she must indicate the healing period contemporaneously with the treatment. Similarly, an IME or insurance doctor cannot at a later date look back and arbitrarily cut off or fix a healing period, the date of the report is the earliest cut off date.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin advises that injured workers get off work slips or updated restrictions each time they leave their doctor’s appointment.