Before 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.
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.