Why work restrictions are so important in Michigan

Michigan workers comp lawyer explains how work restrictions can be used to determine what jobs you can perform and how this can affect the payment of benefits.

Many of our clients are given work restrictions by their doctors but don’t fully understand what this means. It becomes even more confusing when an insurance company doctor sets different work restrictions.

Think of a work restriction as a limit to the amount of physical activity that a person can perform on the job. Work restrictions are always set by a doctor and will be based upon medical condition.  Some work restrictions are temporary while others can be permanent.

Work  restrictions can be classified into different exertional levels. This is important because it is a way to categorize the types of work that a person can perform. Here is some information about the different exertional levels to help you understand your own work restrictions.

Exertional levels as defined by the Dictionary of Occupational Titles

Sedentary Work – Exerting up to 10 pounds of force occasionally (Occasionally: activity or condition exists up to 1/3 of the time) and/or a negligible amount of force frequently (Frequently: activity or condition exists from 1/3 to 2/3 of the time) to lift, carry, push, pull, or otherwise move objects, including the human body. Sedentary work involves sitting most of the time, but may involve walking or standing for brief periods of time. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing are required only occasionally and all other sedentary criteria are met.

Light Work – Exerting up to 20 pounds of force occasionally, and/or up to 10 pounds of force frequently, and/or a negligible amount of force constantly (Constantly: activity or condition exists 2/3 or more of the time) to move objects. Physical demand requirements are in excess of those for Sedentary Work. Even though the weight lifted may be only a negligible amount, a job should be rated Light Work: (1) when it requires walking or standing to a significant degree; or (2) when it requires sitting most of the time but entails pushing and/or pulling of arm or leg controls; and/or (3) when the job requires working at a production rate pace entailing the constant pushing and/or pulling of materials even though the weight of those materials is negligible. NOTE: The constant stress and strain of maintaining a production rate pace, especially in an industrial setting, can be and is physically demanding of a worker even though the amount of force exerted is negligible.

Medium Work – Exerting 20 to 50 pounds of force occasionally, and/or 10 to 25 pounds of force frequently, and/or greater than negligible up to 10 pounds of force constantly to move objects. Physical Demand requirements are in excess of those for Light Work.

Heavy Work – Exerting 50 to 100 pounds of force occasionally, and/or 25 to 50 pounds of force frequently, and/or 10 to 20 pounds of force constantly to move objects. Physical Demand requirements are in excess of those for Medium Work. Very Heavy Work – Exerting in excess of 100 pounds of force occasionally, and/or in excess of 50 pounds of force frequently, and/or in excess of 20 pounds of force constantly to move objects. Physical Demand requirements are in excess of those for Heavy Work.

Lost wages under Michigan workers comp

A person should receive full wage loss benefits if he or she is totally disabled from work. However, most people are not totally disabled but have work restrictions that prevent them from doing their job or another that pays similar wages.

Insurance companies can reduce wage loss benefits if it is determined that a person is only partially disabled and has a wage earning capacity. This determination will be based upon work restrictions and the ability to find another job.

The problem is that it does not matter whether a person is actually earning wages.  The insurance company can say that he or she has a wage earning capacity solely based upon their own opinion. Just because a person can perform some sedentary work does not mean that he or she will be hired.

It is not so easy to switch careers or find other work in this economy. Most people require retraining or additional education to make the transition from heavy work to a sit down job possible.

Games insurance companies play

Many of the workers comp cases that we handle involve a dispute about work restrictions and the availability of jobs. Insurance companies want to say that a person can work because that means less wage loss benefits need to be paid.

If you believe that your wage loss benefits have been unfairly reduced or stopped, call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation. You never pay a fee unless you are successful with your case.

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 comp benefits and never charges a fee to review a case.

Related information:

Video: Injured at work? Advice from a Michigan workers comp lawyer

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Tony Crider.

07/01/2012
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