Michigan workers’ compensation pays valuable benefits to injured workers. You may be eligible for wage loss benefits, medical treatment, and other compensation. Below, we explain how workers’ compensation benefits are calculated in Michigan and how much you might receive. (To get these benefits, you will need to file a workers' compensation claim in Michigan.)
In Michigan, the following types of benefits are available through workers’ comp:
However, these benefits are limited by state law, and certain types of losses are not covered. For example, an injured worker cannot receive compensation for pain and suffering through workers’ comp. (To learn more, see our article on what benefits are available through workers' comp.)
Unlike many states, Michigan does not differentiate between temporary and permanent disability. Instead, disabilities—whether temporary or permanent—are all covered under “wage loss.” You will receive wage loss benefits as long as you have a work-related reduction in your wage earning capacity. This can result in lifetime benefits, although this is rare.
If you’re unable to work at all, wage loss benefits are 80 percent of your after-tax average weekly wage. (Your tax filing status and number of dependents can also impact your wage loss rate.) Michigan sets a maximum wage loss benefit each year, though ($870 in 2017). Wage loss benefits are paid once you are unable to work for seven days. If your disability lasts for at least 14 days, the insurance company will retroactively pay you for your first week off work.
If you can return to work, but your wage earning capacity is reduced, Michigan workers’ comp pays a “differential benefit.” This benefit is 80 percent of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury wages. For example, if you used to earn $500 in post-tax weekly wages, but you now can only earn $300, you would get $160 in differential wage loss benefits ($500 - $300 = $200; 80% x $200 = $160.)
The Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency offers an online calculation tool to help you determine your benefit amount.
Your “wage earning capacity” depends on your education, work experience, and other skills (including hobbies and volunteer work). If you’re able to earn the wages expected of someone with your education, skills, and job training—you will not receive wage loss benefits. For example, your benefits may be reduced or terminated if you:
If your injuries are completely disabling, and you need time off work, you typically will receive your full wage loss benefit. However, if your doctor releases you with restrictions—even if these restrictions prevent you from doing your actual job—you should legitimately start looking for work. The insurance company may try to reduce your wage loss benefits, arguing that your wage earning capacity has increased. You can rebut this argument by showing that your good faith job search was unsuccessful.
Although Michigan does not set a minimum wage loss benefit, low-income workers may be eligible for a supplemental benefit if they are totally and permanently disabled. You are totally and permanently disabled if you have suffered the loss of two limbs, have completely lost your vision, have permanent paralysis of two limbs, or have permanent and disabling mental illness.
If you are totally and permanently disabled, Michigan’s Second Injury Fund pays an additional benefit that brings you up to a state minimum. The minimum total and permanent disability benefit in 2017 is $241.41. For example, if you’re receiving $160 in wage loss benefits, the Second Injury Fund will pay a supplemental benefit of $81.41.
Totally and permanently disabled workers who are receiving the state minimum or maximum can also receive cost of living increases. In addition, their benefits will not be offset by other benefit payments (such as short-term disability benefits or a pension).
You are eligible for specific loss benefits if you suffer an amputation or lose the functional use of a body parted listed in Michigan’s specific loss schedule. If you suffer a total loss of use of a listed body part, you will receive 80 percent of your after-tax average weekly wage for a period of time determined by the schedule. These benefits are available regardless of whether you lose time from work or suffer a reduction in wages.
The schedule awards a certain number of weeks for a total loss of use of a body part, including the following:
Unlike wage loss benefits, there is a minimum specific loss benefit in Michigan: 25 percent of the state’s average weekly wage. (In 2017, the minimum specific loss benefit is $241.41.) The state’s maximum benefit also applies to specific loss benefits.
In Michigan, you cannot receive specific loss benefits and wage loss benefits simultaneously. However, if you have on ongoing wage loss after your specific loss benefits run out, you can start to receive wage loss benefits again.
If an injury or illness results in death, the worker’s dependents may receive death benefits. Death benefits are 80 percent of the worker’s after-tax average weekly wage for 500 weeks (or longer if there are dependent children involved). For 2017, the minimum weekly death benefit is $482.81. Additionally, the insurance company must pay up to $6,000 for the worker’s reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
Wage earning capacity is a complicated concept, and you may need a vocational expert’s help calculating your wage loss. Contact a lawyer immediately if the workers’ compensation insurance company disputes your claim or reduces your benefits due to perceived wage earning capacity.