Michigan workers compensation lawyer talks about the revised Notice of Compensation Payments Form (WC-701) and how it is a harbinger of bad things to come.
Our law firm has written extensively about House Bill 5002 (a/k/a Workers Comp Reform Bill) and the terrible changes this legislation tries to accomplish. The most controversial being the reduction of wage loss benefits based upon an individual’s “wage earning capacity.”
Think of wage earning capacity as a person’s ability to earn wages in other employment taking into consideration their work injury and restrictions. The problem with House Bill 5002 is that it lets an employer or insurance company automatically reduce wage loss benefits based upon its own opinion about what work is available.
It does not matter whether a disabled worker is actually earning wages or having trouble finding a job. The insurance company can say that a disabled worker has a wage earning capacity based solely upon its own opinion. The burden is then on the disabled worker to file a case and prove entitlement to full wage loss benefits. This can take months or sometimes years of litigation.
What has happened so far
Several of our clients have had their wage loss benefits unfairly reduced. One individual had her benefits cut off just because the insurance company says she has a wage earning capacity. The adjuster on the case does not understand that someone can have a wage earning capacity but still not earn maximum pre-injury wages. Differential benefits must be paid under these circumstances. We anticipate winning the case at trial but our client is now suffering with no income.
Another problem is that some defense attorneys are arguing that House Bill 5002 applies to all dates of injury. This argument is being made despite comments from the sponsor of the bill who said it would not apply to existing claims. To remedy this conflict, supplemental legislation was passed (House Bill 4552) that says these changes only apply to injuries and diseases incurred on or after December 19, 2011.
Accident Fund, one of the state’s largest insurance companies for workers compensation, has started sending letters to people requiring that they provide vocational information in order to continue getting benefits. We believe this is an attempt to reduce or stop the payment of benefits based upon changes to the law.
A new twist
The Agency has now revised its Form WC-701 to include a rate adjustment for post injury wage earning capacity. It is our belief that employers and insurance companies will be encouraged to automatically reduce wage loss benefits. Just because it’s on the form doesn’t mean it has to be used in every case.
The Agency says the new form is necessary to comply with its legislative reporting requirements. This includes reporting on the number of disabled workers who have had benefits reduced as a result of a wage earning capacity.
The statutory reporting requirement was thrown into House Bill 5002 to give the appearance that the legislators care what happens with these changes. We anticipate a whole lot of people are going to have some serious questions for their elected representatives when their benefits get cut off.
We are also encouraging other attorneys to make sure that a new WC-701 is filed by the insurance company when one of their clients has a reduction based upon wage earning capacity. This is to ensure that the Agency reports an accurate number of these cases.
What you can do right now
If your wage loss benefits have been reduced based upon wage earning capacity, call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation. We only get paid if you are successful with your case.
You should also remember to vote in the 2012 election. House Bill 5002 passed along party lines because not enough people called their representatives to demand this bill be stopped.
– 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 compensation benefits and never charges a fee to review a case.