Workers Compensation

Workers Compensation

workers-compensationBefore 1912 a worker who was injured or developed work related disease in the course of his or her employment in the State of Michigan could sue his or her employer in a civil action for damages. However, this remedy was very ineffective for most employment related injuries because it required the worker to prove that the employer was negligent. The employer could show that the employee was him or herself negligent or that the employee assumed the risk of that employment or that the worker was injured due to a fellow employee’s negligence. Workers had a difficult time recovering their lost wages and medical expenses under this system.

In 1912 Michigan adopted a Workers Compensation Act which incorporated a no-fault system under which the worker no longer had to prove negligence. In return for this no-fault system, the law limited the amount that a worker could recover. Workers are now entitled only to wage loss benefits pursuant to a defined schedule, the cost of medical treatment, and certain rehabilitation services. Under the old system, workers could recover for pain and suffering and other damages that a jury might award. There is no jury in Michigan’s Workers’ Compensation System. Once an employee proves that he or she sustained a work related injury or developed a work related disease, the worker after a defined period of time is permitted to be paid wage loss benefits. Medical expenses are always the responsibility of the employer regardless of whether actual work is missed.

Disability is defined under Michigan Law as a limitation in a workers wage earning capacity in work suitable to the worker’s qualifications, experience and training. The worker must show a wage loss to be entitled to benefits. Benefits will be discontinued if the worker refuses a reasonable offer of employment. The work offered to the employee must be within the workers’ medical limitations.

Certain types of injuries called “specific losses” pay defined periods of disability regardless of when the worker is able to return to work. Those specific losses usually involve the amputation of extremities or parts of extremities or the loss or partial loss of sight. In addition to compensation for disabilities related to single event injuries an employer is responsible for compensating diseases related to employment including heart and lung disease as well as diseases caused by cumulative injuries sometimes the result of repetitive or consistent exposures to harmful activity.

Once the worker demonstrates a period of disability, wage loss benefits amounting to approximately eighty percent of after tax wages are payable beginning the second week of disability. If the disability extends beyond the second week the worker is entitled to receive benefits for the first week as well. Wage loss benefits can be reduced by the employer for other employer sponsored disability programs including wage continuation, disability insurance, and pension benefits. Wage loss benefits can continue for a lifetime.
A worker injured in the course of employment is entitled to all medical attention the worker needs including physician visits, diagnostic studies, medicines and rehabilitation no matter the cost or duration of the medical care. A worker may immediately treat with a physician or clinic of his or her own choosing. An employee must submit to Medical Evaluations by physicians chosen by the employer as a condition of receiving benefits. A worker is not, however, required to treat with any physician selected by the employer or their workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
A worker is required to give notice of an injury within ninety days after the injury. The employer must be provided with information sufficient to make them aware that an employee has been injured or has developed an occupational disease. Any claim for benefits must be made by the employee within two years of the date of injury or development of occupational disease. If the worker does not satisfy the notice and claim requirements the worker is not entitled to compensation benefits. Failure to give notice is not always a defense the employer may use unless the employer can establish that somehow it was harmed by the lack of notice. Neither the Notice nor the Claim has to be in writing.
Paul Shibley will advise you of your rights to workers’ compensation benefits and pursue the employer and their insurance carrier if benefits are being incorrectly paid or denied. No fee is charged unless benefits are obtained. Fees must be approved by the magistrate and are subject to statute, usually a percentage of past due benefits.