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Devastating new legislation passes Michigan House, slashing workers comp wage loss benefits

November 11, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan workers compensation lawyers says HB 5002 will cost innocent and injured workers thousands

Even though I’m a lawyer who helps people injured in auto accidents, many of my cases involve workers compensation. These people are injured in the course and scope of their employment and are driving a car “on the job.” Therefore, even though I would define myself (and the other 17 lawyers in my office) as Michigan auto accident lawyers, a very high number of my cases have a workers compensation component that require a workers compensation lawyer as well.

Because of the intricacies of the workers comp system, I often work on all of these cases with an experienced workers comp lawyer, such as Alex Berman, Dennis Morse, or Jeff and Steve Kaufman, who can oversee the work comp benefits part of the case. I oversee the pain and suffering and injury case against the driver who causes the car accident, and for any differential compensation paid by No-Fault that is over and above the 80 percent of workers comp wage loss (paid by comp).

The point, sadly of today’s blog, is that this 80 percent paid by workers compensation is about to get much harder for many completely innocent people who are hurt on the job in Michigan.

Even though I rarely write about workers compensation law in this blog, I feel compelled today because of what is one of the most unfair pieces of legislation I have ever seen: HB 5002.

As expected, the Michigan House of Representatives has passed HB 5002. This bill would provide numerous amendments to the Workers Compensation Act.

HB 5002 would destroy the balance of the workers comp system. It changes the definition of wage-earning capacity as wages the employee “is capable of earning, whether or not actually earned.”

In other words, the bill says if an injured worker is capable of doing another job (which includes lower-paying jobs), then his or her wage loss could be lowered to apply to a lower-paying job.

This “theoretical wages” definition would allow insurance adjustors to reduce the injured employee’s weekly lost wages benefit — even if there is no job available to the employee.

It would also eliminate the employer’s incentive to offer reasonable employment to the injured worker.

Heck, why would an employer offer wage loss pay for the higher paying job, when the employer can legally get away with offering less money for a lower paying job (that might not even exist)? And what’s to stop an employer from claiming that the original higher-paying job is no longer available, just to save money?

This is dishonest, unethical and it is wrong. HB 5002 takes advantage of innocent and injured workers, and like a lot of other pending legislation, it puts more money in the pockets of wealthy insurance companies and big business.

Please, call or write your Senator to oppose HB 5002. You can find your Michigan Senator here.

Steve Gursten is one of the nation’s top accident lawyers. He is head of Michigan Auto Law and president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve has received the highest verdict in the state for a car accident or truck accident victim in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Related information to protect yourselves:

Top 5 misconceptions about workers compensation in Michigan

What to do after a Michigan car accident

Michigan’s worst insurance companies

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our Michigan accident lawyers.

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