When two men living less than 100 miles from one another, one in Alabama, the other in Georgia, each lost an arm in workplace accidents, they received very diverse workers’ compensation settlements. Georgia offered the employee over $740,000 over his lifetime while the one from Alabama, just $45,000.
These cases are emblematic of how much the state a worker lives in determines how much they can recover with workers’ compensation. Every state can choose how much it will benefit an injured worker and no federal minimum exists, meaning Alabama can and does offer the country’s least amount of workers’ compensation benefits.
States break down compensation in terms of how it values in dollars each body part. Values can vary widely—from $6,090 for losing a big toe in California to $90,401 in Oregon.
Playing Politics with Compensation
Rather than having compensation figures be determined by scientific research, compensation is decided more by political expediency. In cases such as Alabama, states decided what amounts to pay victims of workplace injuries decades ago but neglected to tie these amounts to inflation; meaning the $220 a week Alabama pays in lost wages may have been enough in 1985 when the amount was decided upon, but it falls well short in 2015 dollars.
Even outside of Alabama, injured workers receiving permanent partial disability cannot come close to earning what they once did. Though almost four in ten injured employees receive such benefits, a decade after being injured, those on permanent partial disabilities lose roughly 55 to 70 percent of their earnings.
In some states, when determining how much compensation to award, judges may take an employee’s age and education into account. This is not allowed in Alabama where a worker who loses a hand who has worked in manual labor their whole life will receive the same amount as a worker whose hand is not as important to their job.
In addition, some states such as Florida and North Carolina recently decided to end workers’ compensation benefits at or close to retirement age. Still other states like Mississippi have curtailed permanently disabled workers benefits, cutting them to no more than nine years’ worth.
If you were injured in a work-related accident, our San Antonio workers’ compensation attorney can fight your employer and insurance company to recover the benefits you need so call us right away to get started!