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The Flint Journal “Ask the Attorney” Column

Q. My doctor told me to stay off work following a work injury, but my employer told me it doesn’t believe in workers’ comp and I have received no benefits. What can I do? (April 2015)

A. Most employers in Michigan are required to carry workers’ comp insurance. If an employer doesn’t, it can be a misdemeanor, the employer can still be required to pay benefits directly–or the employer can be sued in negligence and subject to damage awards for pain and suffering. Most states passed workers’ compensation laws about a hundred years ago. In this legislation, employers are required to purchase insurance that provides certain reliable benefits and medical care to workers regardless of fault, and in exchange workers give up their right to sue for negligence. The magazine Mother Jones recently reported that many corporations including Wal-mart, Kohls, Lowes, Macys, Nordstrom and Safeway formed an association called ARAWC to lobby legislatures to give companies the freedom not to pay workers’ comp. Instead, they want laws passed that allow companies to decide for themselves how much to pay injured workers, for how long, and for companies to handpick the judges and the procedural rules to govern any disputes. In Florida, it has become so difficult for workers to collect comp benefits because of amendments to its law, a judge recently declared Florida’s comp law unconstitutional, and gave workers their right to sue for negligence back. If these companies get their way, workers constitutionally ought to be allowed to sue for negligence again rather than accept whatever tiny benefits an employer voluntarily decides to offer. (Here in Michigan, things overall aren’t that great either–Governor Snyder’s appointed Appellate Commission was reportedly ruling against workers 94% of the time in 2013.) Every case is different though. Please contact me for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options regarding your own individual situation.

–Attorney Robert J. MacDonald

2021 Postscript: Governor Whitmer disbanded the Appellate Commission and created a new Workers’ Disability Compensation Appeals Commission to hear appeals. The new Commission consists of three members who she appointed with the consent of the Republican State Senate.