Here’s everything you should know if you suffer a work-related injury in Michigan
There are nearly 5 million people in the Michigan labor force. Manufacturing, tourism and agriculture are the state’s largest industries. If you’re a history buff, you might already know Detroit, Michigan for its vehicle manufacturing—General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. put Michigan on the map in the early 1900s. Today, Michigan is where 17% of all U.S. vehicles and 11% of all vehicles in North America are built.
But Michigan is more than just Detroit, and Detroit is about more than just cars. The U.S. Travel Association reported that the tourism business generated about $3.6 billion in state and local taxes in a recent year.
And, the food and agriculture industry amounts to more than $100 billion of the Michigan economy, along with the more than 800,000 workers who are employed in this industry—that’s 17% of the total workforce.
What we know from all of this is that Michiganders work hard. But regardless of the type of job you do or how hard you work, no one is immune to becoming injured at work. Even in a “safe” setting, like answering phones in an office, people have trip or slip and fall accidents, repetitive motion or strain injuries, or other kinds of accidents.
What you need to know about Michigan workers’ compensation
Each state handles workers’ compensation benefits a little differently.
At its core, workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system that provides benefits to any employee who is injured at work.
If a Michigan employer employs one or more people for 35 hours or more per week for at least 13 weeks during the preceding year, it’s required to provide employees with workers’ compensation insurance.
If an employee is injured at work, they have the right to make a claim to recover costs for medical treatment, lost wages, and some other expenses. This benefits both the employer and the employee. The employee receives quick payment of no-fault insurance, which means that unlike a personal injury lawsuit, they don’t have to prove that anyone was negligent or liable for their injury—only that they were injured at work.
It also insulates the employer from liability; the employee can’t sue the employer for costs related to the injury, which saves the employer from lengthy and expensive litigation.
If you’re injured at work, you need to prove the following in order to receive Michigan workers’ compensation benefits:
1. The injury happened at work, which means it doesn’t have to be directly related to your job. Any injury or accident that happens within your workplace would qualify you for benefits;
2. The injury happened outside your regular work site, but you were engaged in duties required for your job at the time you were hurt;
3. The injury developed gradually over time as a result of an activity or condition related to your work. This could be an injury like carpal tunnel syndrome or other musculoskeletal problem that results from repetitive motion, strain, lifting or positioning; it could also be an illness from exposure to a chemical or toxin in your work environment. For instance, this could include hearing loss from repeated exposure to very loud noise, a respiratory disease like asbestosis, or other long-term health effects;
4. The injury cost you money in the form of medical treatment or lost wages from time out of work during your recovery or as the result of a disability that was caused by the accident or illness.
It can be difficult to prove that your illness or condition resulted from conditions at work because you’ll need to show that there is no other reason for you to be suffering from that illness or issue; you’d need a doctor to rule out genetics, other behavioral and environmental factors (for instance, whether you’ve been exposed to the chemical or toxin someplace other than your work or if you’re a smoker, etc.) and other potential causes of the illness.
However, a worker is covered by Michigan workers’ compensation even if the injury happened out of state, as long as either the person resides in Michigan or the employment contract was made in Michigan.
The caveat to no-fault workers’ compensation insurance is that if the person’s “intentional and willful” behavior caused the injury, they cannot receive benefits. In other words, if the worker routinely ignored one or more of the employer’s safety rules and was injured as a result, they might not be able to obtain benefits. On the other hand, Michigan judges have ruled that horsing around at work (or “horseplay”) would not disqualify a worker from receiving compensation.
Michigan workers’ compensation benefits
Workers’ compensation benefits should cover your medical treatment costs related to the injury. Michigan law allows your employer to select your doctor for the first 28 days of your treatment, and then you’re permitted to switch doctors and notify your employer of the change.
Medical treatment can include hospital and doctor visits, diagnostics like CT scans or MRI, prescription medication, assistive devices, and any other required items for your recovery.
There is a seven-day waiting period before you can collect wage loss benefits (including weekends or holidays). If you’re still unable to work on the eighth day, you can begin to collect benefits for lost wages. If you’re out of work for 14 days, you can receive retroactive benefits for the first seven days you were out.
Your weekly benefit would be about 80% of your wages after taxes in most cases. This can vary because of other factors, including how long you’ve worked for the employer, your dependents, and other considerations.
If the proximate cause of a person’s death was from their work, their surviving dependents can recover at least 50% of the state average weekly wage. To be considered a dependent, the person must receive at least half of their financial support from the deceased worker; a child under 16 years old is presumed to be dependent.
You can receive disability payments if you can show that your disability prevents you from working at the level of your training, education and work experience, regardless of whether you were working in a related field at the time of your injury.
The Michigan Workers’ Disability Compensation Agency will evaluate a disabled worker to determine what types of jobs they could perform after their injury, as opposed to beforehand. You need to show that you’re not able to do the job you had before the injury or illness in order to receive disability payments.
If you are partially or temporarily disabled, your benefits will be based on your ability to earn a wage based on your current status and ability to work.
Michigan workers’ compensation also pays for vocational rehabilitation and job retraining if you need to do a job that’s different from your prior role.
How to make a Michigan workers’ compensation claim
You must provide notice of the claim to your employer within 90 days of the injury. A claim for lost wages or medical treatment must be made within two years of the accident.
The Michigan Workers’ Disability Compensation Agency now uses a file transfer service to accept claim forms online through a secure portal.
When you begin receiving benefits, you must inform your employer or insurer if you’re also receiving any other work income. You can’t receive workers’ comp benefits if you’re able to work and earn the same or more money as you did prior to the injury. The only exceptions are if you have a total and permanent disability or have lost the use of a body part.
To receive benefits, you must:
- Seek employment in a role you can do with your injury or disability;
- Submit to reasonable medical exams as required by your employer or their insurance company;
- Participate in rehabilitation in order to hasten your return to work; and
- Accept employment offers that you’re able to perform.
A dispute between you and your employer or insurer is handled by the Workers’ Compensation Board of Magistrates. If you file an application for a hearing, you will be granted your request if:
- Your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance; or
- Your claim is for only vocational rehabilitation or medical benefits, but not wage loss; or
- You are not represented by a lawyer; or
- The Agency thinks there’s a reasonable chance that a mediation could resolve the issue.
If your complaint arises out of a different issue, you can have a hearing in front of a magistrate. Likewise, if the mediation does not resolve your issue, it would be escalated to a hearing before a magistrate.
If you aren’t able to receive the full benefits to which you believe you’re entitled, you can call a Michigan workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance.
The basis for personal injury law is fairly straightforward:
If you're injured because of someone's negligence, then you're entitled to recover for your financial losses related to the injury.
The premise for the workers' compensation system is similar:
Your employer is required to have specific insurance that provides benefits if you're injured at work.