102.29 Third party liability. (1) The making of a claim for compensation against an employer or compensation insurer for the injury or death of an employee shall not affect the right of the employee, the employee's personal representative, or other person entitled to bring action, to make claim or maintain an action in tort against any other party for such injury or death, hereinafter referred to as a 3rd party; nor shall the making of a claim by any such person against a 3rd party for damages by reason of an injury to which ss. 102.03 to 102.64 arc applicable, or the adjustment of any such claim, affect the right of the injured employee or the employee's dependents to recover compensation. The employer or compensation insurer who shall have paid or is obligated to pay a lawful claim under this chapter shall have the same right to make claim or maintain an action in tort against any other party for such injury or death. If the department pays or is obligated to pay a claim under s. 102.81 (1), the department shall also have the right to maintain an action in tort against any other party for the employee's injury or death. However, each shall give to the other reasonable notice and opportunity to join in the making of such claim or the instituting of an action and to be represented by counsel. If a party entitled to notice cannot be found, the department shall become the agent of such party for the giving of a notice as required in this subsection and the notice, when given to the department, shall include an affidavit setting forth the facts, including the steps taken to locate such party. Each shall have an equal voice in the prosecution of said claim, and any disputes arising shall be passed upon by the court before whom the case is pending, and if no action is pending, then by a court of record or by the department. If notice is given as provided in this subsection, the liability of the tort-feasor shall be determined as to all parties having a right to make claim, and irrespective of whether or not all parties join in prosecuting such claim, the proceeds of such claim shall be divided as follows: After deducting the reasonable cost of collection, one-third of the remainder shall in any event be paid to the injured employee or the employee's personal representative or other person entitled to bring action. Out of the balance remaining, the employer, insurance carrier, or, if applicable, uninsured employers fund shall be reimbursed for all payments made by it, or which it may be obligated to make in the future, under this chapter, except that it shall not be reimbursed for any payments made or to be made under s. 102.18 (l)(bp), 102.22, 102.35 (3). 102.57, or 102.60. Any balance remaining shall be paid to the employee or the employee's personal representative or other person entitled to bring action. If both the employee or the employee's personal representative or other person entitled to bring action, and the employer, compensation insurer, or department, join in the pressing of said claim and are represented by counsel, the attorney fees allowed as a part of the costs of collection shall be, unless otherwise agreed upon, divided between such attorneys as directed by the court or by the department. A settlement of any 3rd-party claim shall be void unless said settlement and the distribution of the proceeds thereof is approved by the court before whom the action is pending and if no action is pending, then by a court of record or by the department.
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