Michigan Workers Comp Lawyer: 6 ways HB 5002 Will Make It Harder for the Injured to Collect Work Comp Benefits

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Alex Berman of Alex Berman PC explains big changes coming to Michigan’s workers compensation law — changes that will unfairly cost innocent employees hurt on the job

HB 5002 will change the workers compensation law in several ways that will hurt injured workers.

House Bill 5002, which amends the Michigan workers compensation law to make it more difficult to collect workers compensation benefits, has passed the Senate and is making its way to the Governor's desk. It's expected to become law before the end of the year, says Alex Berman, founder of Farmington Hills-based Alex Berman PC (DBA Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers).

"HB 5002 comes at the same time as record unemployment and when workers compensation insurance premiums are expected to decline 7.4 percent next year," Berman notes.

He said HB 5002 will change the workers compensation law in several ways that will hurt injured workers. According to Alex Berman, a Michigan workers compensation lawyer of over 35 years, these changes include:

1. Partially disabled workers: The most concerning change is the introduction of a new category of "partially disabled worker." Employers and insurance companies will now be able to reduce or stop wage loss based upon a hypothetical wage-earning capacity. This means that a person’s benefits can be cut, based upon phantom wages from a job that may not even exist.

The current law only allows for a reduction if a person can find other work and earn real wages.

2. Explosion in workers comp lawsuits: There will be an explosion in workers’ comp lawsuits, as people who never considered filing a case will now find themselves in the position of having their wage loss benefits cut based upon an imaginary job.

And, all workers compensation cases will now require that a vocational expert be hired to determine the wage-earning capacity. This will greatly increase the cost and time of litigation for both employees and employers.

3. Employers have more time to choose doctors: HB 5002 lengthens the amount of time that an employer has to choose medical providers. Therefore, injured workers will now have to wait 28 days to see their own doctor or get a second opinion. This change interrupts the most important benefit under workers' compensation — access to medical care.

4. Psychiatric disabilities or preexisting conditions: HB 5002 makes it harder to collect workers compensation benefits for a psychiatric disability or aggravation of preexisting condition. This heightened evidentiary standard will make claims for back and neck injuries much more difficult, as most people have some preexisting arthritis in their spine.

5. No Qualifications Advisory Committee: HB 5002 abolishes the Qualifications Advisory Committee. This is the entity charged with ensuring that only qualified individuals become workers compensation magistrates. The new law only requires an individual to be a licensed attorney for five years. This opens the door for appointments of magistrates based upon political ideology instead of adherence to the law and competence. It hurts everyone, notes Berman.

6. Benefits stopped if an employee is terminated: Also troubling is a provision that allows an employer to stop the payment of benefits if an employee is terminated for fault. This means that injured workers could have their wage loss taken away just because they violated a company policy or rule. This provision is extremely vague and ripe for abuse.

Berman noted that the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) recently found that Michigan currently offers a better value proposition for both employers and injured workers both in terms of medical costs per claim and worker outcomes.

He said workers compensation "reform" also comes at an odd time.

"Business and insurance groups have made this legislation a priority and have argued that reform is necessary to help modernize the system," he said. "House Bill 5002 was fast-tracked and hearings were held during the week of Thanksgiving while many were away for the holiday."

About the law firm: Alex Berman, PC (Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers) has been protecting people injured at work for more than 40 years. The workers compensation law firm is based in Farmington Hills, Michigan at 30101 Northwestern Highway. For more information, call (855) 221-COMP. You can also read the Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers Blog.

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