Obscure Defenses: Criminal Acts and Imprisonment (Part 3 of 3)

How insurance companies use criminal acts and imprisonment to dispute workers’ compensation benefits in Michigan.

Behind Bars

We have blogged about obscure employer and insurance company defenses all week long. Today’s final blog post is going to look at criminal acts and imprisonment. How these circumstances can result in a disputed workers’ compensation claim and loss of benefits.

Please remember that every case is different, and it is smart to consult an experienced attorney about each individual situation. There is no charge to discuss a potential case and fees are only paid if additional benefits or a settlement is obtained.

Wage loss benefits are not available for employees who are imprisoned if the violation or reason for the confinement occurred while at work and is directly related to the claim. Wage loss benefits can also be stopped when an employee is incarcerated for any reason. This includes situations away from and unconnected to employment. We had a client lose his weekly checks after being incarcerated for a DUI. Payment of medical treatment under workers’ compensation should still be required.

Physical incarceration is not required and just being unable to obtain work could be enough for the insurance company to dispute benefits. The employer need only show that he or she is not working because of the commission of a crime. An example would be when light duty work becomes unavailable because they company has a strict policy against hiring employees with a criminal record. These situations can be controversial, and it is a good idea to speak with an attorney should this occur. Many people with criminal records successfully return to the workforce so it is an unfair defense.

Employers can also refuse to pay workers’ compensation benefits if an employee gets hurt during the commission of a crime. Criminal acts could be used to dispute workers’ compensation benefits under the intentionally and willful misconduct section. Wage loss and medical treatment might be forfeited. We have seen this defense used when an employee gets hurt in the process of stealing from their employer or a customer. Our experience shows these are very difficult cases to pursue and win.

A situation could also arise when the employment itself is considered illegal. Michigan law provides that undocumented workers can enter into a “contract of hire” and be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits should they get hurt on-the-job. Wage loss benefits are owed until it is discovered that further employment would be illegal. This occurs when an undocumented immigrant is hired, gets hurt on-the-job, and cannot find alternate employment because of his or her immigration status. All reasonable and necessary medical should be paid regardless of immigration status.

We recommend that employees contact an attorney if their workers’ compensation benefits have been disputed based upon a criminal act. This is especially true if exonerated or charges were dropped.

Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (844) 201-9497 for a free consultation today.

Related information:

Crime does not pay when it comes to workers’ comp

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