Michigan workers compensation lawyer sheds light on a disturbing trend by Accident Fund to reduce wage loss benefits.
Accident Fund is now demanding that individuals provide proof of disability under Stokes v. Chrysler, LLC in order to continue receiving wage loss benefits. Even when the claim is not in litigation and is being paid voluntarily! We believe this is an incorrect application of case law and will be used to unfairly dispute the payment of lost wages.
Accident Fund is also requiring that individuals provide proof of a job search to continue benefits. They want names, addresses, and contact information for potential employers. This is not a legal requirement in all situations and requiring this information in every claim opens the door for abuse.
Why this is happening
The Michigan Supreme Court issued a decision in 2008 called Stokes v. Chrysler, LLC. This case attempted to clarify the burden of proof but ended up making it more difficult to get benefits. The Supreme Court outlined several steps that an injured worker must complete to win his or her case at trial.
Stokes has created more litigation and expense for both sides as vocational experts must be hired in almost every case. Vocational experts testify about transferable skills and perform a labor market survey to see what jobs are available. The injured worker must somehow define the universe of jobs that he or she is qualified to perform. The injured worker must then prove that he or she cannot earn maximum wages even in work never performed before.
The Supreme Court also introduced the idea of “discovery” to force an injured worker to disclose his or her vocational information. Insurance companies want to know about education, work history, qualifications, training, computer skills, military service, volunteer activities, and hobbies. This is used to defend a denial of workers compensation benefits in court. To facilitate the mandatory exchange of vocational information, the Agency created a Form 105. Completion is voluntary and it was designed to be used in a contested case.
What Accident Fund is doing
Our clients have started receiving an “Initial Stokes Letter.” Included is a Form 105 to be completed and returned. We believe that Accident Fund will use this information to reduce or stop wage loss benefits. We do not believe that it is appropriate to use the Form 105 for a claim that is not in litigation.
Another concern is that Accident Fund will use this vocational information to create a hypothetical wage earning capacity. This could be used to reduce benefits based upon a job that doesn’t even exist.
Accident fund also wants a list of employers that our clients have contacted as part of a job search. If the person is totally disabled by his or her doctor, this information should be irrelevant to pay benefits.
We think Accident Fund should be more concerned with providing vocational rehabilitation to help people get back to work.
How to get help
If you believe that Accident Fund has unfairly stopped your worker compensation benefits, call us toll free at (855) 221-2667. We will fight to protect your legal rights!
– Alex Berman is the founder of Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers. Hes 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 evaluate a case.