September 22, 2019

National Public Interest Organization Criticizes Georgia Workers’ Comp System

A report from the Center for Justice & Democracy, a private consumer rights advocacy group, suggests that Georgia offers less that adequate protection for injured workers with its workers’ compensation laws. Among the findings:

  • lost wage benefits for injured workers are among the lowest in the nation. In Georgia, an injured workers is paid 66% of his average weekly wage with a maximum payment of $450 per week. Most states pay 75% to 100% of the average weekly wage with no cap at all.
  • except in certain catastrophic cases, injured workers in Georgia may only collect lost wage benefits for 400 week (7 1/2 years). Most State have no benefit term cap. From the perspective of a workers’ compensation lawyer, this limitation on the total amount of lost wage benefits is reduces the insurer’s exposure and therefore reduces an injured workers’ negotiation power for settlement purposes.
  • lobbyists for business and insurance interests are actively lobbying to get rid of the “catastrophic” designation and therefore apply a 400 week cap on wage benefits in all cases. A worker who ends up in a wheelchair unable to move, therefore, would only be entitled to less than 8 years of wage benefits with no chance of recovering a monetary settlement sufficient to care for his lifetime needs
  • the Georgia legislature has been eroding the “no fault” nature of Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws. Insurers can deny benefits by claiming that an employee did not follow procedures or if an employment application was not filled out completely. Insurers can deny benefits if a worker is hurt on a break or by claiming that he is not performing work within the scope of his employment. These eligibility issues are similar to the issues that arise in negligence civil litigation such as car accidents or malpractice, except that in a workers compensation setting the injured worker cannot recover pain and suffering damages. Typical workers’ compensation settlements, therefore, are significantly lower than a negligence settlement would have been for the same type of injury.