December 2011 Amendments to the Act

In December, 2011, the Michigan Legislature enacted major changes to the Workers' Compensation Act.  These changes make it increasingly difficult for injured workers to obtain benefits, and the need for a competent attorney that specializes in workers' compensation law is even more important than ever.  The following are major changes included in the December, 2011 Amendments, relating to defining personal injury, disability, and entitlement to wage loss benefits under the Act.

1.  A personal injury is limited to work events, activities, or exposures that cause, contribute, or aggravate pathology that is medically distinguishable from pathology that existed before the injury.  It is not enough to show that a work injury caused only an increase in symptoms, such as pain.

2.  To be disabled from a work injury, an injured worker must have a limitation in wage earning capacity due to the work injury.  The injured worker must show that he is unable to perform all the jobs paying the maximum wages in work suitable to his qualifications and training.  If an injured worker cannot perform any of the jobs that pay maximum wages, but remains able to do work that pays less than maximum wages, his disability is partial.

3.  The injured worker must look for work within his work-related limitations, and within is qualifications and training.  If the injured worker is unable to obtain work from his good faith job search, then he is entitled to weekly wage loss benefits as if he were totally disabled.

4.  An injured worker must disclose to the employer his qualifications and training, including education, skills, and experience.  He must provide evidence as to jobs, if any, he is qualified to perform within the same salary range as his maximum wage earning capacity at the time of the injury.  He must demonstrate that the work injury prevents him from performing jobs within his qualifications and training that pay maximum wages.

5.  If a injury causes total disability, then an injured worker is entitled to wage benefits equal to 80% of after-tax, average weekly wages.  But, if disability is partial, then the injured worker is entitled to 80% of the difference between his after-tax, average weekly wages before the injury, and his wage-earning capacity after the injury.

6.  An injured worker is not entitled to benefits if reasonable light-duty employment ends "for fault of the employee."