Who is considered disabled under Michigan worker compensation law?
How you must prove disability from an at-work injury to receive lost wages
Below are some FAQs about disability and the Michigan worker comp law.
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- Who can receive lost wages after an at-work injury?
- Does being disabled guarantee wage loss benefits?
- How can I prove that I’m disabled?
- What’s the difference between total and partial disability?
- Why does my wage earning capacity matter?
- Will I be able to prove disability on my own?
- My employer is saying I can do other jobs, now what?
Q. Who can receive lost wages after an at-work injury?
A. The worker compensation law can pay wage loss benefits to people who have been injured at work and become disabled.
To be considered disabled, you must show more than an inability to do your past job. You must prove that a work injury has caused a reduction of your maximum wage-earning capacity in work suitable to your qualifications and training. This includes work that may be performed using any transferrable work skills.
Q. Does being disabled guarantee wage loss benefits?
A. The establishment of disability does not create a presumption of wage loss under Michigan worker compensation law. You must show that the reason you are not earning maximum wages is because of your work injury. For example, an individual who retires with a work injury would not be entitled to wage loss benefits because he or she voluntarily left the labor market. The same holds true for a disabled individual who must stop working for personal reasons.
Q. How can I prove that I’m disabled?
A. The Michigan Supreme Court has outlined four steps that you can use to prove disability according to worker compensation law:
- You must disclose all of your qualifications and training.
- You must consider other jobs that pay your maximum pre-injury wage to which your qualifications and training translate.
- You must show that the work-related injury prevents you from performing any of the jobs identified as within your qualifications and training.
- And if you are capable of performing some or all of those jobs, you must show that you cannot obtain any of those jobs.
Q. What’s the difference between total and partial disability?
A. Recent changes to Michigan’s workers comp law have complicated the issue of disability. You can be found to be totally disabled or partially disabled if you have a wage earning capacity. If it is determined that you are only partially disabled, your wage loss benefits can be reduced or stopped.
Q. Why does my wage earning capacity matter?
A. Think of wage earning capacity as your ability to earn income in other employment taking into consideration your work-related injury. You are required to seek work that is reasonably available. The insurance company wants to find that you have a wage earning capacity so that lost wages can be reduced or stopped. It does not matter whether you are working or not. An experienced workers comp lawyer can help you with a job search to show that that no jobs are reasonably available.
Q. Will I be able to prove disability on my own?
A. Workers compensation cases can be extremely complicated and therefore, it’s best to seek the help of an experienced lawyer. It is not enough for your doctor to say that you have an injury and cannot work. You must show that your work restrictions are preventing you from earning maximum wages and that lesser paying work is not reasonably available for you. An experienced workers compensation attorney can help you do this. For help from an attorney today, call us at (855) 221-2667.
If your employer or the insurance company disputes your wage loss benefits, you must ask for a hearing with the Michigan Workers Compensation Agency. A magistrate will be assigned to your case and make a decision about the facts and law. You will have the opportunity to present medical evidence and explain why you cannot work.
Many workers compensation cases require that you hire a vocational expert to do a transferable skills analysis and a labor market survey. The transferable skills analysis is how you show what other work you can perform within your qualifications and training. Once you have defined the jobs within your qualifications and training, a labor marker survey is conducted to see what employment options are available within your restrictions. Hiring a vocational expert might sound overwhelming, but it’s a part of a work comp lawsuit and something a workers compensation attorney can help you with.
Q. My employer is saying I can do other jobs, now what?
A. Your employer or its insurance company will also hire a vocational expert to testify about the availability of jobs. You will be told that jobs are available within your qualifications and training that pay your maximum wages. We often find that these defense experts fail to use the correct work restriction or ignore job prerequisites.
Due to changes in the worker compensation law, some employers and insurance companies are now reducing wage loss benefits based upon a hypothetical ability to earn wages. It does not matter how bad the economy is or if anyone will actually hire you. You can be told that you are only partially disabled because you can do other work at less money. You might also be told that you can perform a minimum wage job, even when you were highly paid before. Your wage loss benefits can be cut based upon a job that you have never performed or that might not even exist.
We find that the best way to refute a bad vocational opinion is through a job search. Apply for any job within your medical restrictions that fits your qualifications and training. Make a log and keep notes. Do not limit yourself to jobs that you have performed in the past. Consider hobbies and work skills acquired over your lifetime. You may also want to apply for unskilled jobs. A good job search allows you to prove that no work is truly available.
A workers compensation attorney can also guide you through your job search and protect you if your employer is trying to pay you less than what you’re entitled.
Helping you understand the Michigan worker comp law
Because of the changes in the worker comp law that can dramatically affect people hurt at work, it’s always best to speak with an attorney about your situation. The call is free, and we can protect your wage loss benefits and your legal rights.
Call (855) 221-2667 to speak with one of our lawyers today. You can also fill out our contact form.