In December 2011, the Michigan legislature passed a bill that made significant changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system.
The bill represents the first significant overhaul of Michigan workers’ compensation law in more than twenty years. Among other things, the reforms give employers increased authority over injured workers’ health care decisions and require partially-disabled workers to accept lower paying jobs or risk losing their benefits.
The bill also makes significant changes to Michigan’s workers’ compensation alternative dispute resolution system.
In response to the changes, the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency has directed its staff to automatically assign the following types of contested cases to mediation:
- Claims involving unrepresented claimants
- Health Care Services Rules disputes (also known as 104Bs)
- Claims involving medical bills only
- Claims in which the employer has no record of insurance coverage
- Vocational rehabilitation hearings
How the Alternative Dispute Resolution Process Works
Before the changes, the alternative dispute resolution system involved face-to-face meetings moderated by an experienced mediator. In most cases, the mediator was an attorney who practiced workers’ compensation law.
Now, the meetings will be held over the phone and will be conducted by a facilitator who will not be a licensed attorney. The facilitator will lead the parties in a conversation that is intended to identify a middle ground and work toward a non-binding resolution of the dispute.
It is important for workers’ compensation claimants to understand that they are under no obligation to settle their claim during the teleconference process. If the facilitator is unable to satisfactorily resolve the claim within 12 weeks of the application, the claim will be transferred to a magistrate and assigned a trial date.
If you have been injured in an on-the-job accident but your employer is disputing your benefits, it’s important that you have a representative who can advocate for your best interests, both during the alternative dispute resolution process and at trial. Contact a Michigan workers’ compensation attorney who can help protect your rights.