House Bill 5002: A real example of virtual wages

Michigan workers compensation attorney shows how virtual wages can be used by insurance companies and self-insured employers to reduce or stop the payment of wage loss benefits.

 

We have written extensively about House Bill 5002 and why it is so bad for Michigan workers. We have tried to sound the alarm about virtual wages and how it will be used by insurance companies and self-insured employers to unfairly reduce or stop workers compensation benefits.

The sad truth is that some insurance companies and self-insured employers have already started using virtual wages to pay less on workers compensation claims. They are calling this partial disability and are trying to get the Michigan Legislature to write this into the workers compensation law.

Insurance company abuse

Michigan Public Radio reports on police officer Michael Czinski who is facing this issue head-on. Czinski was hurt on the job damaging an artery that supplies blood to his wrist. After three surgeries, he only has limited use of his right hand.

“I can write somewhat, it’s painful, it’s hard to type, I definitely can’t shoot my weapon anymore…,” said Czinski. “Daily pain. 24 hours a day. And the workman’s comp has stopped treatment of it, so I’m pretty much stuck with it now.”

Czinski was receiving $644.00 per week in wage loss benefits. This was approximately 60% of his pre-injury pay. A vocational counselor was hired by the insurance company to perform an assessment. It was determined that he could not be a police officer anymore but that he could  work for the Department of Human Services as a state worker. A job that was supposedly open and available.

Czinski applied for the state worker job but was never given an interview. The insurance company did not care and reduced his wage loss benefits to $190.00 per week because of his hypothetical wage earning capacity.

Czinski continues to look for a job within his restrictions but has been unsuccessful. “They say they’re out there, but I don’t know where,” he said. “Especially with the economy, I just don’t know where they’re at.”

How the workers compensation law is supposed to work

An employer or its insurance company can already take a credit against wages that are earned in other employment. This gives the employer a big incentive to bring their injured employees back to work.

If the employer does not have restricted work available, they are encouraged to provide vocational rehabilitation services. This is to help the injured worker get retrained and with job search efforts.

If an employee refuses reasonable employment, wage loss benefits stop. Work avoidance is not allowed.

Virtual wages short-circuit the entire workers compensation system. The employer or insurance company will be able to reduce wage loss benefits based upon a hypothetical wage earning capacity regardless of whether a job exists or whether wages are earned in other employment. House Bill 5002 will make this the law.

If you find yourself in this situation, call an experienced workers compensation attorney immediately. To speak with one of our workers compensation attorneys, call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation.

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:

House Bill 5002 (2011)

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Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, Patricia Drury.

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