Posted in Uncategorized on December 22, 2016
Injured workers are surprised to learn that workers’ compensation is not the same in every state. Even with remarkably similar circumstances surrounding two different workplace accidents, the amount of compensation each worker ends up with depends largely on the state where he or she lives, or where the injury occurred.
In many areas where state legislatures have repeatedly cut back on workers’ comp benefits, injured workers may be surprised to discover how little they’re entitled to, in spite of suffering serious or permanently debilitating injuries, such as the loss of a limb.
For instance, a worker who loses an arm on the job in Alabama – the state with the lowest workers’ comp benefits in the country – could expect $45,000 total compensation – it would be laughable it if weren’t so tragic. Georgia, fortunately, has much more generous benefits in place, but with the current trend toward states’ cutting benefits, it may only be a question of time as to when that might change.
The Costs of Cutting Workers’ Comp
Workers comp originated as an agreement between workers and employees at a time when labor started to shift from farm to factory work. The template of most agreements was the same: Labor unions agreed that workers would relinquish their right to sue the company after an injury, and employers agreed to pay for medical treatment and lost wages until an injured worker could come back on the job.
However, that was a long time ago. More recently, and thanks largely in part to lobbyists working on behalf of big corporations and major insurance companies, lawmakers in many states have worked to slash the maximum amounts the law requires insurance companies and employers to pay out for serious on-the-job injuries. In 2015, ProPublica launched an extended investigation into the state of workers’ compensation in the United States. What they found was alarming. Here’s a sampling:
- Since 2003, lawmakers in 33 states passed legislation to reduce benefits for workers’ comp or make it much more difficult for injured workers to get compensation.
- Florida, for example, has slashed benefits for the most severe types of injuries by a whopping 65% over the last 20 years.
- In addition to reducing maximum required payments, many states have also set seemingly random time limits on when payments get cut off, meaning many injured workers stop getting payments well before they’ve recovered enough to go back to work.
- Some states have given insurance companies and employers the power to choose injured workers’ doctors rather than allowing employees’ to see their personal physicians. Doctors, who may have never seen a patient in person or understand his or her complex health needs, often have the ability to deny or stop payments or treatments for which the insurer doesn’t want to pay.
Georgia’s Workers’ Comp Benefits
Georgia still has relatively generous workers’ comp benefits. This is particularly true when compared with other neighboring states. In Georgia, the current maximum weekly payment for temporary total disability is $550 per week for up to 400 weeks. For temporary partial disability, it’s up to $367 per week for up to 350 weeks.
Georgia’s workers’ comp policies pay significantly more for the most serious and debilitating injuries, such as amputations, than many other states. Here’s a brief chart comparing Georgia’s average maximums for amputated body parts to similar maximums elsewhere:
As the above chart suggests, Georgia is doing relatively well in some areas of workers’ comp compared to other states, although it’s nowhere near the top of the rankings. This helpful tool from ProPublica’s workers’ compensation investigation project reveals more information about different workers’ comp payments around the country; Georgia tends to fall in the middle.