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More Workers' Compensation Changes

Burdine & Brown Nov. 1, 2021

Last week, I posted the number one item on my wish list of changes in the Workers’ Compensation laws that would make the system a bit fairer for the injured worker.

Rest assured that the employer and the insurer’s interest would respond with a vengeance to anything that would radically favor the injured worker. We have learned that to get any leverage at all we must “eat the elephant one bite at a time.”

Another area of concern that I would like to see changed, would be the amount of workers' compensation benefits of pay for the injured worker. Currently, the highest benefit that a temporarily disabled worker can draw is $675 per week. That means that the injured worker would have to have an average weekly wage of $1,012. The law states that in a workers’ compensation claim the injured person would be paid 2/3 of the average weekly wage to determine the WC amount to be paid, $675 is the maximum.

The compensation pay is not tied to the average weekly wage in Georgia. According to the Department of Labor, that amount would be $1,149 per week. 2/3 of this amount would amount to $766. This is only fair as the worker should not lose more than 1/3 of his pay, if that much! To lose 1/3 of one’s salary is a heavy burden on top of suffering an injury. Clearly, this rate should be increased to 2/3 of the states’ average weekly wage.

Also, this should be an automatic change. Right now, anytime the lobbyist for the injured worker (a few of us lawyers) wants to increase the comp rate, the insurance lobbyists argue that we should “give up” something. Giving something up just means sacrificing another of the “fragile” rights of the injured worker. We should not have to give anything up every time we seek a wage increase for the injured worker. This matter should be an automatic change and when the Department of Labor published an increase to the average weekly wage, then the maximum workers’ compensation weekly benefit rate should go up as well.