Michigan lawyer discusses reopening a closed workers’ comp claim.
We frequently get telephone calls and emails from disabled employees in Michigan who are suffering from an old workplace injury. Many of these individuals have been working in pain and without proper medical care for years. They want to know the answer to the question “can you reopen a closed workers’ comp case?” in order to seek additional medical treatment and/or wage loss benefits. Here is what you need to know
How long do you have to reopen a workers’ comp claim?
You have an indefinite amount of time to reopen a workers’ comp claim provided that medical evidence supports that the claim is for a work-related injury. This is a necessary step to reopening a workers’ comp claim whether it be a medical or wage loss claim in Michigan.
A disabled employee can reopen a closed workers’ comp case and seek future workers’ comp benefits if notice and the workers’ comp claim were properly made at the time of original injury. Payment will be subject to a 1 and 2 year back rule that limits how much past due benefits can be collected.
Watch out for insurance companies who automatically dispute workers’ comp claims based upon the age of the claim. Do not fall for the excuse that you can’t reopen a closed workers’ comp case. Medical treatment is a lifetime benefit when evidence shows it is for a work-related injury. Wage loss benefits are also available when an employee can no longer perform work.
Notice & Claim
The first step to successfully reopen a closed workers’ comp case is to ensure the original workplace injury was documented correctly. Notice of injury must have been given to an employer within 90 days of the occurrence. Simply telling a manager or supervisor that an injury occurred is enough. We recommend filling out an accident report so there is written proof. Make sure to keep a copy.
Claim for workers’ comp benefits must be made within 2 years. This can also be accomplished by simply asking for medical treatment or wage loss benefits. It is a good idea to put something in writing requesting formal assistance.
Employees who were paid workers’ comp benefits in the past have direct evidence of notice and claim. Keep all letters from the employer and insurance company in a safe place so they can be used as proof.
The next step to successfully reopen a closed workers’ comp case is to prove causation. This means a qualified physician must say that current problems are related to an old workplace injury. This can be difficult to obtain unless medical evidence like MRIs or EMGs support it. Watch out for insurance company doctors who say current problems are preexisting or just part of the aging process.
Benefits will only be paid going back either 1 or 2 years from the court filing date. Future medical is not limited. Wage loss is only available if an individual is actively seeking employment but cannot work.
Settlement: Redemption vs. Voluntary
There is an important distinction between a “redemption” and a “voluntary payment.” A redemption is when all past and future workers’ comp benefits are traded for a lump sum cash payment. These types of claims cannot be reopened in the future.
A voluntary payment occurs when the insurance company pays benefits up through the date of an agreement. You can reopen a closed workers’ comp case under a voluntary payment as future benefits are not given up and the claim can be reopened.
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) 316-8033 for a free consultation today.