Georgia law could lead to higher compensation for workers

The rate change likely won't have as big a financial impact on employers and insurers, according to an Atlanta-based attorney.

“In my experience, most applicants already make less than the maximum rate,” said Jeff K. Stinson, partner at Swift Currie in Atlanta. “This increase will not affect your entitlements.” (Image credit: Bigstock)

Payouts for workers' compensation claims are increasing after a bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year took effect July 1.

The result is an increase in costs for employers and carriers to process claims, but a workers' compensation attorney in Atlanta says he doesn't think the change will impact most cases.

“The rate change is unlikely to have as large a financial impact on employers and insurers as it will have on a small group of injured workers,” said Jeff K. Stinson, a partner at Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers in Atlanta. “The maximum potential damages resulting from this over the course of a claim is an increase of $20,000 over the maximum allowable period of 400 weeks.”

Pursuant to House Bill 1409, the Georgia General Assembly provided for an increase in the maximum rates for temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, and permanent partial disability.

Effective July 1, the maximum temporary total disability and permanent partial disability rates increased from $675 per week to $725 per week, while the maximum temporary partial disability rate increased to $483 per week. In addition, the maximum benefit payable to a surviving spouse with no other dependents has been increased to $290,000.

Stinson said the change likely won't have much of an impact because most cases don't result in injured workers receiving benefits for the maximum period of time.

“The increase means that workers earning at least $1,087.50 per week will now receive the maximum benefit, which is above the previous threshold of $1,012.50,” Stinson said. “In my experience, most claimants already earn less than the maximum rate and this increase will have no impact on their entitlements.”

However, Stinson said people making more than $1,087.50 will receive an additional $2,600 per year in benefits.

Impairment Assessments

Payments for impairment assessments have also increased as a result of changes to the state's workers' compensation law.

“For example, a 10% rating for the entire person would previously result in benefits of $20,250, while now it would result in total benefits of $21,750,” Stinson said. “Here, too, it is not such a big increase in costs for employers and insurers, but rather more benefits for the employee.”

Stinson pointed out that Georgia still has one of the lowest workers' compensation rates. He said he doesn't expect there to be any further litigation as a result of the payout increase.

“This is not such a big change that I think it will result in people filing workers' compensation claims or hiring lawyers more than in years past,” Stinson said.