Associated Press picks up story on House Bill 5002

Michigan workers compensation lawyer breaks down House Bill 5002 and challenges its proponents to offer real solutions.

We all know who is behind House Bill 5002. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Manufacturers Association, and Michigan Self-Insurers’ Association all want to change workers compensation law to suit their members interests.

These special interest groups are arguing that it is necessary to modernize and codify current law. What they are not telling you is the devastating effects this legislation will have on injured workers.

As more and more people are informed about House Bill 5002, the truth is getting out. The Associated Press recently picked up the story and other news outlets have started digging.

House Bill 5002 goes way beyond codifying current law and makes several substantive changes. Here is how House Bill 5002 will change wage loss benefits under workers compensation.

Partial Disability and Workers Compensation

House Bill 5002 creates a new class of partially disabled workers. An employer or insurance company will be allowed to reduce workers compensation benefits based upon an individual’s hypothetical wage earning capacity. This means that a person’s wage loss benefits will be reduced based upon a job that may or may not exist.

The idea behind this provision is that if a person can do another job then why should he or she get full wage loss benefits. This sounds reasonable but will not function as advertised. The proposed changes would allow an employer or insurance company to simply open a newspaper and reduce wage loss benefits based upon whatever jobs are listed. It does not matter if the jobs are truly available or if the individual will actually be hired. It also removes any incentive on the part of the employer to bring an injured worker back to work with restrictions.

The current law already allows for a reduction of wage loss benefits if a person is working at another job. The current law also allows for benefits to be stopped if an individual refuses reasonable employment. The issue is not work avoidance.

It is important to recognize that wage loss benefits under workers compensation are already limited to 60% of gross pay. These benefits are then subject to a maximum of $742.00 per week regardless of how much an individual was earning. To further reduce these benefits based upon a hypothetical wage earning capacity will result in the majority of people getting nothing from workers compensation.

Many injured workers could hypothetically perform unskilled sedentary work for minimum wage. The problem is that these jobs simply do not exist in sufficient numbers to be viable. The injured worker would also have the burden of competing against individuals without disability or restriction.

You can bet that employers and insurance companies will reduce wage loss benefits by minimum wage in every claim. This will force many injured workers below the poverty line and will destroy families. It is hard enough to survive on 60% of your income.

The original intent of the workers compensation law was to provide wage loss benefits to a person who was injured at work and cannot perform his or her job. In exchange for these benefits, the employee gave up the right to sue his or her employer for negligence. House Bill 5002 would destroy a system that has been around for 100 years.

The answer is not to tell a partially disabled worker to simply find a job. Workers compensation is supposed to provide reasonable wage loss benefits and vocational rehabilitation. This is not welfare and employers must live up to their obligations.

Tell your state representatives that House Bill 5002 is a mistake

This bill does not have to become law. You can take a stand against these special interest groups and help protect Michigan workers. Call, write, and e-mail your state representatives and let them know that House Bill 5002 is wrong for Michigan.

Call (855) 221-2667 to speak with one of our workers compensation lawyers. We will do everything possible to protect your rights under the workers compensation law.

Alex Berman is the founder of Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers. He’s been representing injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years.  Alex has helped countless people obtain workers compensation benefits and never charges a fee to evaluate a case.

Related information:

Injured at work? Advice from a Michigan workers comp lawyer

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