What Sort of Compensation Can I Expect if I am Injured on the Job?
Getting hurt at work can be a very scary experience. On top of dealing with a sudden injury, you may have costly medical bills arise during a time when you’re unable to work. The uncertainty can create a lot of additional stress during an already-difficult and unfamiliar time in your life.
However, with the right information and resources, you’ll be much better equipped to manage the situation successfully.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
The Workers’ Compensation Law was created in 1912 as a benefit system for employees in Michigan. Almost every employer in the state (with a few exceptions, such as federal employers or sole-proprietors) are governed by this law, and therefore required to either be self-insured or to purchase work injury compensation insurance.
This law was created as a compromise between employers and employees. Previously, workers had to prove their employer was negligent or responsible for their injury, which could be incredibly difficult. The current system is no-fault though, meaning all injuries sustained in the workplace are eligible for benefits. However, this system also protects employers from civil action, so they cannot be sued over a workplace injury or forced to pay for pain and suffering.
What Compensation Can You Expect?
Much of work injury compensation comes in the form of medical benefits and wage loss benefits, plus reimbursement for any mileage expenses incurred.
You qualify for medical benefits from the date of your injury. You are entitled to any medical treatment that is reasonable and necessary without pre-authorization from your employer. However, for the first 28 days after your injury, your employer does have the right to choose your doctor. After that period, you can find another physician, but you must inform your company and their insurance provider.
Wage loss benefits only become active if your injury leaves you unable to work for at least seven consecutive days. Your eligibility starts from the eighth day, but if the injury continues for more than fourteen days, you will then be eligible for the first week as well.
Your payments will be based on a calculation of your average weekly pay for the past year – specifically, your highest 39 weeks out of the previous 52. If you have more than one job, both salaries could be included in the calculation.
Generally, you will receive approximately 80% of your after-tax average. These payments are income tax-free and will continue as long as you cannot work and are under the age of 65 (at which point they’ll drop by 5% annually).
If your injury leaves you unable to fulfill the job you had before, you may qualify for vocational retraining. If so, you could receive up to two years of education or retraining toward a different position. Some employers are open to discussing this option, as finding a way for you to maintain your salary will minimize their future payments.
Things to Remember
The most important thing to remember if you’re hurt at work is to report it to your employee immediately. While you technically have ninety days to do so, and two years to file a claim, acting quickly is the best way to avoid any hassles or lost benefits.
While your employer can file your claim for you, the responsibility is ultimately yours. Verify that they’ve submitted the file and get a claim number. If they cannot provide one, you must file yourself by submitting a WC-117 form to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Agency.
Finally, ensure that you are well-informed, and don’t make any agreements or take any settlements without guidance. It could be incredibly beneficial to speak with a Workers’ Compensation lawyer in your area. Many people worry that they can’t afford these, but these are actually no win/no fee cases in Michigan, meaning that you won’t pay until after the case is closed.
Even then, the state limits how much attorneys can charge: Fees are capped as low as 10% if a settlement is voluntarily reached, and no more than 30% for back payments or a full trial. Furthermore, in the event of a trial most lawyers will carry the court costs – without this, most people could never afford to fight for their benefits.
If your claim goes that route, using a lawyer could be the more affordable option.
Every injury and subsequent claim is different. Some end in a settlement, others require legal action, and many are processed without any difficulties or disputes. It’s hard to see any of those outcomes in that initial moment of your injury, though.
While it can be a scary experience, it can also be very manageable if you’re properly prepared. If you stay well-informed, report and record everything properly, and seek advice whenever you’re unsure, you can competently navigate the world of work injury compensation.