Frequently Asked Questions About Michigan’s Workers’ Compensation Laws

Question: The injury that occurred was my employer’s fault. Can I sue my employer for my pain and suffering?

Answer: Generally, Michigan law prohibits employees from suing their employers for damages, beyond the economic benefits provided by workers’ compensation. However, you may be able to take legal action against the manufacturer of a defective product or against an individual (other than a co-worker) who caused the injury. If you have questions about your potential legal claims, you should talk with a Michigan workers’ compensation lawyer.

Question: I believe that my injury resulted from a violation of my civil rights. Can I sue my employer in this situation?

Answer: Perhaps you can. In the workers’ compensation law, there are exceptions to the general rule that prevent an individual from seeking non-economic damages from an employer. One exception is a civil rights violation; another is an injury that directly results from an intentional act by the employer. If you feel that one of these exceptions applies to you, talk with a Michigan workers’ compensation lawyer about your potential legal claims.

Question: I was injured while on my way into work. Am I eligible for workers’ compensation benefits?

Answer: Workers’ compensation usually does not apply to one who is traveling to and from the place of employment. However, once a worker is on the employer’s property, workers’ compensation insurance may cover an injury.

It is important to note that employees who must travel to perform work assignments are covered by workers’ compensation benefits if they are hurt on the job. For example, a person who is injured after leaving the worksite to make a delivery or attend a meeting at another location may qualify for workers’ compensation, because the trip was an essential part of his or her job assignment.

On the other hand, workers’ compensation may not cover an injury, if the employee was hurt while making a side-trip to handle purely personal business. If you have questions about coverage in this situation, talk with a Michigan workers’ compensation lawyer.

Question: My co-worker and I were goofing around when I was injured. Am I still entitled to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits?

Answer: Michigan courts traditionally recognize that employees may engage in a certain amount of “horseplay.” In most cases, this would still qualify an individual for workers’ compensation benefits. However, each case must be evaluated separately, based on the specific circumstances. A worker who engaged in serious willful or intentional misconduct may lose the right to workers compensation benefits.

Question: My employer offered me a different type of job, but I feel that it is beneath my previous pre-injury position. Do I have to accept the position?

Answer: Michigan workers’ compensation law requires injured employees to accept a position offered by their own employers (or other employment sources), if the new job is within their qualifications and training, and any medical restrictions. When the new job pays less than the previous position, the worker should receive partial wage loss benefits, to cover part of the difference between the individual’s previous and current earnings.

A worker seriously risks any claim for continued workers’ compensation benefits by turning down the offer of a job that he or she is able to do. If you are not sure how to handle a job offer or your employer demands that you actively look for other work, consult an attorney immediately.

Question: What happens if I try to return to work in a job that is supposed to be within my medical restrictions, but cannot perform the job duties?

Answer: Under the law, it should be possible for you to resume receiving benefits. However, your employer may challenge whether you made a real effort to return to work. If this happens, and you truly are unable to work, you should talk with a Michigan workers’ compensation lawyer immediately.

Question: Can I choose my own doctor when I am getting treatment for my work-related injury?

Answer: For the first 10 days after a work-related injury, the employer has the right to choose the treating doctor. However, after 10 days, the law allows you to select your own doctor and other medical care providers, as long as you select qualified medical professionals and notify your employer of your intentions.

If you or a loved one has suffered a workplace injury, it is important to talk with a Michigan workers’ compensation lawyer with experience in Michigan worker’s compensation law.

Attorney Marya Sieminski joined the Law Offices of Sam Bernstein in 2003. She is admitted to practice law in Michigan state courts and in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated magna cum laude from Wayne State University Law School. Marya has worked as a trial lawyer for 10 years and exclusively represented victims in personal injury litigation and in workers compensation claims. She also was appointed by the Governor to serve on the State of Michigan Workers Compensation Qualifications Advisory Committee.

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