A Brief Overview of the Michigan Worker’s Disability Compensation Act

In 1912, the state of Michigan adopted The Worker’s Disability Compensation Act. Worker’s Compensation is designed to provide wage replacement, medical, and rehabilitation benefits to those who are injured while at the workplace. In order to qualify for worker’s compensation, the injury must arise out of and in the course of employment. This can be a bit confusing and is different case by case depending on if the worker is on the job, or traveling to or from the job site. Typically injuries that occur on the way to or from work are not covered under worker’s compensation. 

One thing you should be aware of is that under Michigan law there is no statute of limitations. However, there are requirements for providing notice and filing your claim in a timely manner; failing to comply with these requirements will potentially impact the claimant’s right to benefits. An injured worker must give notice of the injury within 90 days of the incident and make a claim for benefits within two years of that date. Please note that if failure of notice on the employee’s part occurs, this does not give the employer a defense unless they can prove they were harmed by the lack of notice. While the employee does have 90 days to report the injury, it is in their best interest to report it right away in order to be able to prove that the injury did in fact arise as a result of employment. 

The Worker’s Compensation Agency was formed specifically to handle worker’s compensation disputes. In order to start a formal action, the worker would need to file with the Worker’s Compensation Agency. The agency would then notify the employer, as well as the employer’s insurance. Once the case is assigned it is then tried before a magistrate. On some occasions a year can pass before a trial is held before a magistrate. Once a decision is made, either party can appeal the decision to the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission. While the case can be appealed, it will not receive a new hearing, alternatively, members of the commission will read typed records, depositions, and exhibits from the hearing. 

It is an employer's right to require workers who claim disability to be examined by a physician of the employer’s choice. This can be exercised on a regular basis if the benefit payment is for an extended period of time. An employer also has the option to send a worker claiming disability to a vocational expert for evaluation. This evaluation will determine whether or not there is work available within the claimant's capacity. Claimants can also be evaluated by their own vocational expert if they choose. The majority of worker’s compensation cases end in a settlement where the claimant receives a single lump-sum payment which then relieves the employer and their insurance of future liability. 

So when is it acceptable to deny a claim? The Worker’s Compensation Act states that payment of worker’s compensation benefits goes to an employee who receives a personal injury ‘arising out of and in the course of employment’. The courts have suggested that ‘arising out of’ and ‘in the course of employment’ are actually two separate concepts because injuries can occur during the course of employment that do not arise out of employment. In worker’s compensation cases, the plaintiff is required to prove that there is a relationship between the employment and the disability. Even though the plaintiff is tasked to prove this connection, it is not necessary to prove the work was the sole purpose, but usually proving that it contributed to the injury is enough.  

Want to learn more about worker’s compensation in Michigan? Download our Worker’s Compensation Overview webinar and see who qualifies as an employee under the eyes of the law.