Injured Worker's Maximum Weekly Disability Benefit Rate Held Hostage
It really bothers me to see the injured workers’ maximum weekly disability benefit rate be held
hostage to the insurance company and big business’ strategic goals.
Specifically, in 2022, the maximum weekly benefits rate was $675 per week. In 2023, the
maximum rate was slightly increased to $725 per week. In July 2023, the rate was increased to a
maximum of $800 per week.
To figure what the disability payment is for the injured worker in their workers’ compensation
claim, one must determine the average weekly wage over the 13 weeks prior to the date of the
job injury and multiply that number by 66.7%. Therefore, if one’s job injury occurs after July
2023, and the average wage is $1200 per week, the worker would receive an $800 per week
In percentage terms, even the increase to $800 per week in benefit amount, Georgia remains the
lowest state in terms of the percentage of the state average weekly wage. Furthermore, Georgia
ranks 43 out of 50 in terms of the maximum dollar amount required to be paid by the insurance
companies for the disabled worker.
Why is Georgia so regressive? Am I being too critical of the workers’ compensation system? I
do not think so. Once injured, the worker will lose 1/3 of their weekly salary if they cannot work
How do you take care of your family with an immediate 1/3 drop in earnings? How do you pay
for childcare, rent and a car loan?
Other states, 42 of them to be exact, have recognized this sad problem for the injured worker and
have raised the disability rate to an amount that recognizes the plight of the disabled.
Too quickly the insurance companies and employers see an injured worker as a liability and
reluctantly pay benefits. Their immediate and long-term goal is to terminate these benefits.
But, getting back to why the disability rate is abnormally low, the insurance company lobby at
the legislature year after year attempts to use the weekly disability rate as a bargaining chip to
decrease other precious rights of the worker. “If you want a higher disability rate, you must give
up another right,” so the argument goes.
The argument of the injured worker and their few advocates is to index the weekly disability
benefits to the state average wage increase as determined by the Department of Labor each year.
This would take all the argument and bargaining out of this issue and rightfully return it to the
realm of fairness.
One must realize that the goal of the insurance lobby and that of big business is to “keep the lid”
on the workers’ benefits. In fact, Georgia is recognized as one of the most insurance friendly
states, with premiums lower than most states in the US. Let’s hope enough folks in the State
Legislature will help to stem the tide and recognize the worker deserves an increase in his/her
disability rate without bargaining or surrendering other valuable and decent rights they possess.