Pending now in the Georgia State Senate is Senate Bill 135 which would make some positive changes for injured workers in Georgia. Significant for higher wage earners is a much-needed increase in the weekly cap for income benefits. Injured workers are paid at 2/3 of their average weekly wage based on the 13 weeks of salary preceding the work injury. Currently, the 2/3 of wages are capped at $575. That maximum payment was last increased in July of 2016 and at that time, only a modest increase of $25 was provided over the previous $550 cap. The current proposed increase would be $100 which is the most substantial single increase in that cap in decades. This increase is way overdue but will only modestly bring up Georgia's maximum compensation rate from the second lowest in the nation (Mississippi is the only state lower) to the 4th or 5th from the bottom. Regardless, the increase is welcome news for higher wage earners.
As a point of example, for a worker to be able to maximize the new $675 rate (assuming it passes both chambers of the legislature and is signed by the Governor), he or she would need to have a salary of approximately $1,012 per week. (2/3 of $1012 is $675). This equals an annual salary of roughly $52, 650. However the change in rate will not affect workers already injured. Unfortunately, weekly benefit rates are not adjusted based on the cost of living or changes in the statutory maximum rate. The amount of benefits an injured worker will receive is set on the date of the work accident.
The other positive change in SB135 would include exceptions to the 400-week cap on medical benefits. Currently, Georgians who were injured on or after July 1, 2013, are subject to a 400-week cap on medical benefits, unless the case is adjudicated or accepted to be catastrophic. In some cases, a worker may suffer the amputation of a hand or limb, but not be catastrophically injured. Under the current law, those workers would not be able to obtain ongoing treatment for prosthetics after the 400-week mark. This bill seeks to address that issue allowing for lifetime benefits related to the need for prostheses and other devices.
The full text of the bill is available here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20192020/SB/135.
We will keep you updated on our blog.