What To Do When Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits Are Being Disputed
Your employer or its insurance company can dispute payment of all of your workers’ comp benefits. This frequently happens, and injured workers will find themselves suffering without any income or medical treatment. Below, we’ve provided some information to help you understand how to protect yourself if you receive a “Notice of Dispute” letter, which means that some of or all of your work comp benefits are being cut off.
Q. What workers’ comp benefits am I entitled if I’m injured at work?
A. If you are injured on the job in Michigan, you are entitled to lost wages, medical care and vocational rehabilitation to get you trained for a new job. Here’s more information about each of your Michigan workers’ compensation benefits.
Q. What is a “Notice of Dispute” letter?
A. If you have received a document entitled “Notice of Dispute,” that means your workers’ compensation benefits are being denied.
The first thing you should do is take a deep breath. Then, you should speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you recover all the benefits you’re entitled to under the law.
Q. Can my employer or insurance company cut off my benefits?
A. Yes. Regardless of what your doctor says, your employer or its insurance company can dispute payment of your wage loss, medical care or any of your other workers’ comp benefits. This means that while the employer or insurance company is disputing payment, the coverage of your benefits stops.
The best way to protect yourself is by hiring an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, who can take all of the necessary steps toward getting your work comp benefits back.
Q. What can my lawyer to do get my benefits back?
A. If you continue to have problems and are not being paid under workers compensation, you will need to start a formal legal proceeding. This is done when your work comp attorney files an application for hearing with the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency.
Your case will be assigned to either a facilitator or a magistrate for action. If your case is assigned to a faciliator, you will have the chance to resolve the issues informally through teleconference.
If your case is assigned to a magistrate, it will be placed on a trial docket. You will be given the opportunity to testify and submit evidence. The magistrate will then make a determination as to the facts and the Michigan workers’ compensation law.
Every case must be approached like it is going to trial. Your attorney must obtain medical records and take the deposition of your doctor. You may also need to hire a vocational expert to testify on your behalf. Lay witnesses will also need to be prepared.
Q. Can I represent myself when my benefits are being disputed?
A. The law makes it nearly impossible for you to represent yourself. Insurance companies and large corporations have spent big money making it difficult for you to prove entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits.
You must now prove that your work injury has caused a reduction of your maximum “wage earning capacity.” This means that you only get wage loss benefits if you can show that no other job exists that would pay the same or higher wages. It is not enough to prove that you cannot do your job.
This is a complicated legal standard and it is unlikely that you will win on your own. You must present proofs in accordance with the rules of evidence. You cannot simply tell the magistrate about your injury and expect to win your case. Even if the facts are on your side, you can still lose if your case is not properly presented.
Q. When should I start my work comp lawsuit?
A. It is important to start a workers’ compensation lawsuit immediately after your benefits are disputed. The reason is that you can only go back two years from the date you filed your case. You could miss out on substantial workers’ comp benefits if you wait too long. You may even be limited to one year back if you were previously paid workers’ comp benefits.
This is why it’s important to challenge a bad workers’ compensation decision as soon as it happens. You could lose out on substantial workers’ compensation benefits just because you waited too long to act.
Q. What can I expect after my lawsuit has been filed?
A. Here are some frequently asked questions about the stages of a work comp lawsuit.
To start, an attorney will be hired by your employer or its insurance company to defend against your workers’ comp claims. You will be sent to an independent medical examination so your medical condition can be evaluated. You may also be sent to a vocational rehabilitation counselor to determine if there is other work that you can perform. This is all done for the defense and will not help you at trial.
You or your attorney will need to attend multiple hearing dates before the magistrate will decide your case. You should use this time to prepare for trial. Talk to your doctor about work restrictions and whether he or she will support your claim at a deposition. Obtain a copy of your employment file, wage records, defense medical examination, and any labor market or transferable skills analysis. It’s important to have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your side at each step of the case. And keep in mind, a workers’ comp attorney will handle all of these steps for you, and guide you through the process.
Q. Should I accept a settlement if my benefits are disputed?
A. Employers and insurance companies sometimes make a cash settlement offer in lieu of trial. Be careful accepting any settlement without speaking with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
You may be giving up all substantial rights under workers’ compensation for a small sum of money. Most employers and insurance companies will not pay fair value until a lawyer appears on a case. Usually the cost of the lawyer is recouped by the client several times over because of a larger settlement.
Have Questions About Your “Notice of Dispute” Letter?
You do not have to suffer in silence without any income or medical care, just because your insurance company or employer don’t want to pay the bills.
We can do what it takes to make sure you receive all of the benefits you’re entitled.