The Michigan workers' compensation system provides benefits to eligible employees who suffer work-related injuries and illnesses, including compensation for lost wages and the loss (or lost use) of certain parts of your body, as well as medical treatment and special benefits for employees who are considered permanently and totally disabled. This article explains how the most important workers' comp benefits are calculated in Michigan and how much you might receive.
Workers' Compensation in Michigan for COVID-19
Can you get workers' comp benefits if you contract COVID-19 because of exposure to the novel coronavirus at work? The answer will largely depend on the nature of your job. Normally, workers' comp in Michigan will cover illnesses that were caused by conditions peculiar to your employer's business—but not "ordinary diseases of life" that the general public is exposed to outside of work.
However, the state has made it easier for certain healthcare workers and first responders to qualify for benefits when they get COVID-19. Under emergency rules signed by Governor Whitmer in October 2020, if you're considered a "COVID-19 first response employee" and you test positive or are diagnosed with COVID-19 on or after March 18, 2020, the state will presume that you have a work-related injury unless your employer proves otherwise.
Employees covered under the order include:
- doctors, physician's assistants, nurses, and respiratory therapists
- other workers in hospitals, medical care facilities, hospices, and nursing homes
- home healthcare workers
- firefighters, police, and correctional officers; and
- EMTs and other ambulance workers.
The emergency rules, which are effective until March 20, 2021, essentially replaced similar protections under a previous executive order. (That order became ineffective after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state law giving the governor emergency powers was unconstitutional.)
You may receive benefits that cover a portion of your lost wages if you have a disability as a result of your work-related injury or illness. In Michigan, a disability is any limitation in your "wage earning capacity" in work that's suitable for your qualifications and training (more on that below).
Wage-loss benefits will begin after you've been unable to work for seven days. But if your disability lasts for at least 14 days, you'll receive retroactive benefits for the first seven days. You may continue to receive the payments as long as your wage earning capacity is reduced because of your disability, unless you've turned down a reasonable job offer.
If you're unable to work at all and are entitled to wage-loss benefits, you'll generally receive 80% of your pre-injury wages (based on the after-tax value of the average weekly wages in the 39 highest-paid weeks out of the 52 weeks before you were injured or became ill). However, there's a cap on these benefits that depends on when you were injured. For injuries that happened in 2020, the maximum wage loss benefit is $934 per week. (You can find the maximum rates for injuries that happened in other years on the Michigan State Average Weekly Wage Chart.)
If you can return to work in a limited capacity, you may receive 80% of the difference between your pre-injury wages and your current wage earning capacity. For example, if you took home $800 a week in after-tax wages before your injury, but now you can only earn $500, your wage-loss benefits would be $240 (80% of $300).
The Michigan Workers' Disability Compensation Agency offers an online calculation tool to help you determine your wage-loss benefit amount.
Under Michigan workers' comp law, your wage earning capacity is the amount you earn or are able to earn at a job that's reasonably available and suitable to your education, training, experience, and skills.
Your wage-loss benefits will be calculated based on any reduction in actual earnings if your doctor has released you to work with restrictions (such as limits on how much you can lift or how long you stand) and your employer has provided you with modified work. Otherwise, you'll be expected to look for another job. If you've made a good-faith effort but haven't been able to find work that you're qualified to do and that accommodates your restrictions, you may receive the full amount of wage-loss benefits.
Benefits are treated differently if, as a result of your injury, you've lost (or lost the functional use of) an eye, arm, leg, hand, finger, foot, or toe. In this case, you will receive "specific loss benefits" equal to 80% of your after-tax average weekly wage (subject to a minimum and maximum) for a certain number of weeks, depending on which body part you've lost.
You'll continue to receive these benefits for the scheduled number of weeks even if you're able to work during that time. However, if you still have wage loss after the specific loss benefits run out, you may then receive wage-loss benefits.
You may qualify for a total and permanent disability benefits if your work-related injury or illness has caused total blindness, incurable mental illness, the loss of two limbs, or the complete and permanent lost use of two limbs.
The amount of benefits for total and permanent disability begin at the same rate as wage loss for total incapacity; however, if you're receiving the maximum amount, you'll be able to take advantage of increases in the maximum rates (rather than being stuck with the cap in effect at the time of your injury). You'll also be entitled to a minimum payment, and your workers' comp benefits won't be offset by any other benefits you're receiving, such as short-term disability or a pension.
You will continue to be considered totally and permanently disabled for the first 800 weeks that you're receiving benefits, whether or not you're working; after that, your benefits may be stopped or reduced if you are actually earning wages.
Michigan workers' compensation also provides other types of benefits, including:
If your employer's insurance company has disputed your claim or isn't paying the amount of benefits that you believe you're entitled to receive, you should speak with a workers' compensation attorney. A local lawyer who's experienced in this field can help you in many ways, including finding a vocational expert to help establish the proper amount of your wage earning capacity and wage loss.