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Burdine & Brown Feb. 20, 2019

In late 2018, the State Board of Workers' Compensation published statistics for the entire year 2017, their last full year of numbers.

What is most interesting to note is the amount of payments by employers and insurers and self-insurers for medical care. This number was greater than the payment of weekly workers' compensation payments to the injured worker. Here is the breakdown:

Payments to workers for lost time: $651,233,036.00 Payments to all medical treatments: $713,012,567.00

What does this tell us? To me it says that I should have set out on a different career path – medicine! All kidding aside, here are a few observations:

There are far more doctors, urgent care clinics, pain clinics, physical therapy clinics, hospitals, MRI facilities, and the like, than there are lawyers. Clearly, there are lots of lawyers, but in the workers' compensation field, lawyers representing the injured worker and those who represent the insurance companies, the numbers are spread out evenly and there are about 450 in the State of Georgia at this time.

Is this good? Is this fair? More importantly, does this number represent an evenly balanced workers' compensation system when both the employer and insurer are equally represented? The data would say this is about the average in the United States.

The number of injuries where the worker needs to stop working due to the severity of the injury was 31,979 in Georgia for the year 2017. That means that there are approximately 88 injuries every day in the workplace in Georgia.

Georgia seems to be a rather dangerous place to work. It is a right to work state, and the employer very clearly controls the workers' compensation system.

There is also a very interesting total and that is the number of medical only claims. That means people who needed treatment but did not lose time from work. There were 85,820 medical claims. That means that there were approximately 235 at work injuries per day in Georgia. If you add this 85,820 to the number where the employee was not able to continue working after the injury, the number is a staggering 117,799 or 322 people each day experiencing an injury of varying severity.

The total medicals paid for those 85,820 who did not lose time from work was $96,790,241. That is a heck of a lot of medical payments where the injured worker does not lose time from work. Either this means that the clinic system is quickly patching people up and putting them back to work and they are not being reported as lost time injuries because the employer finds other temporary work for the employee or the injured worker does everything he or she can do to avoid losing time from work and having to file a workers' compensation claim and deal with the entire workers' compensation system which is litigation intensive, full of frustration and delay and deny throughout.

The wisest thing to do to is avoid dealing with workers' compensation if at all possible. Our outcomes are scattered at best, and at worst the litigation is plainly insufferable.

On a rather morbid note, I recently found statistics for the year of 2017 that reported 5,147 deaths in the workplace in the entire United States (which is more than three times the amount of Georgia highway fatalities for the same time period. In 2017, Georgia highway fatalities was 1,549.) America's most dangerous occupations are as follows (per 100,000)

Fishers and related fishing workers 99.8 Logging workers 84.3 Aircraft pilots and flight engineers 48.6 Roofers 45.2 Refuse and recyclable materials collectors 35.0 Structural Iron and Steel workers 33.4 Drivers/Sales workers and truckers 26.8 Farmers/Ranchers and other agricultural managers 24.0 First line supervisors of groundskeeping and landscaping services 21.0 Electrical powerline installers and repairs 18.7

Georgia has a moderate share of the most dangerous occupations. So when your spouse gives you a kiss on the cheek in the morning (noon or night) and you grab your lunch pail to head to the job of your dreams, do be careful. It's a dangerous world out there!