Changes in Michigan’s Workers’ Compensation Law and Residual Wage Earning Capacity
In recent years, the Michigan State Legislature has enacted several new changes in the law, which have expounded on recent Michigan Supreme Court decisions regarding Workers’ Compensation benefits.
As the law stands in Michigan today, if you’re injured at work, you must prove you are totally disabled and incapable of performing any type of employment – even on a part-time basis – in order to receive your full Workers’ Compensation benefits. It’s important to note that even the full benefit is only approximately 80% of your pretax wages or 60% of your after-tax wages.
Thus, even in a circumstance in which you’re receiving your full benefit, your income is significantly reduced from what you are receiving while working. Now, under the theory of residual wage earning capacity, the defendant (your employer/insurance company) has the right to reduce your Workers’ Comp rate by an amount that they deem to be your leftover ability to earn wages, despite your injury. For example, if you’re a plumber earning $1,500 per week and suffer a back injury which disables you from performing your duties, you may still have the residual wage earning capacity to earn money in other ways.
The defendant (the insurance company) may argue that you could be a plumbing estimator, which isn’t as physically demanding as the duties of a plumber. It could also be argued that you could earn wages as a telephone solicitor or greeter at Walmart. In this case, the defendant would have the right to reduce your Workers’ Compensation rate by the amount of wages you could potentially earn, taking into consideration your skill set and limitations related to your injuries.
A large amount of the litigation in Michigan’s Workers Compensation Court directly concerns the issue of residual wage earning capacity. If you disagree with the assertions of the defendant (employer/insurance company), you must file a petition and proceed to a hearing, in order to determine any residual wage earning capacity that you may have after your injury.
And the burden of proof is on you as the injured worker!
As an injured worker in Michigan, you now have a duty to look for work that fits within your physical limitations and skill set during the period you receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. Failure to do so can result in a reduction or termination of your Workers’ Compensation benefits.
If you’re injured, you’re required to make a reasonable effort to look for work within your skills and physical limitations, including jobs that you may be overqualified to perform, such as the greeter jobs at Walmart mentioned previously.
There’s no requirement that your job search be limited to employment opportunities at the same skill or wage level as the job being performed at the time of the injury. The laws in Michigan regarding Workers’ Compensation rights have changed dramatically over the last decade, and it’s essential that you contact an attorney specializing in Workers’ Compensation within days of your workplace injury. Failing to do so will severely hinder the attorney’s ability to protect the rights of you as an injured employee.
Your duties and responsibilities as an injured worker begin immediately after your injury. Failing to comply with the regulations could result in a suspension or revocation of your Workers’ Compensation claim. The best way to navigate the dangerous waters of Michigan Workers Compensation Law is with the assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney.
Call our Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Levine Benjamin to get help with your Workers’ Compensation claim.