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Should There Be A Workers’ Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment?4 minute read

The cost of living almost always goes up each year.  This increase in the cost of living is measured by the consumer price index (CPI).  The CPI measures changes in prices paid by consumers for goods and services.  It will tell you whether your money goes as far as it used to go.

A review of the consumer price index numbers for the last year show that costs have increased by a little more than one percent overall.  This means that the same amount of money buys a little less than it did one year ago.

Looking at the information for the last 6 years tell us that there was roughly 11 percent inflation between January 2010 and July 2016.  This means it would take $111 in July 2016 to buy the same amount that $100 would buy in January 2010.

This may not matter if you get a raise each year.  It also may not matter if you receive benefits that increase with the cost of living increase.  Many benefits, like Social Security and VA benefits, are adjusted for increases in the cost of living.

Unfortunately, Georgia workers’ compensation benefits do not get adjusted for increases in the cost of living.  My clients who are seriously injured and unable to work receive the same temporary total disability benefit amount from when they are injured until their case is over.

Increases in the cost of living mean the same amount of money does not buy as much

This failure to increase benefits with cost of living increases harms the people who are most seriously injured and can never go back to work.  Take this example:

A man or woman injured who was injured in 1995 might draw $200 a week in workers’ compensation based on an average weekly wage of $300.  If that individual is catastrophically injured and can never return to work, the insurance company would still pay that same $200 per week today.

But there has been 60 percent inflation between January 1995 and July 2016.  So, it would now take over $320 to buy what could be bought with $200 in 1995.

Try to figure out how to provide food and shelter for you and your family when costs keep going up but the amount of money you receive per week stays the same.  It becomes an impossible task.

So why don’t we have an annual cost of living adjustment to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits?

It is hard to say why Georgia workers’ compensation benefits do not get adjusted for increases in the cost of living.  It can be done.  In fact, some states do adjust their workers’ compensation benefits for increases in the cost of living.

In some states, these adjustments are only made in specific types of cases.  One type of case where benefits are adjusted is “permanent and total” cases (generally meaning that an individual is permanently and totally disabled).

Permanent total disability cases are where a cost of living adjustment is most needed.  These injured workers are unlikely to ever return to work.  Over many years, their weekly workers’ compensation benefit becomes worth much less than it was.

Keep in mind that these injured workers are already living off only two-thirds (or less) of the amount they were making at the time of their injury.  Then, because of inflation, that benefit is worth even less than it used to be.

So, they are really only living off of half or less of what they were making at the time of their injury.  This means that they are actually taking “pay cuts” every year.

Georgia's failure to increase workers' compensation benefits for cost of living harms the most seriously injured workers the most

It just seems wrong that we do this to our most severely injured workers.  The Georgia workers’ compensation system already has extremely limited benefits that seem to decrease every year.  It seems like it would be fairly easy to provide for cost of living adjustments in catastrophic claims (which are very similar to permanent and total claims).

What can be done about Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws?

Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws are statutory.  This means the Georgia legislature determines which laws apply to workers’ compensation cases.  So, the Georgia legislature must authorize any change in the law.

Changes to the Georgia workers’ compensation law are made almost every year.  In 2016, a few changes were made.  To change the rules and create a cost of living adjustment, the legislature would just have to decide the following:

  1. To which types of cases would the cost of living adjustment apply;
  2. How would the percent cost of living adjustment be determined; and
  3. When would the cost of living adjustment go into effect each year

What reason is there for not doing it? Social Security and VA make these adjustment each year to millions of benefit checks.  It can be done fairly easily.

In fact, there are already parts of Georgia’s workers’ compensation law where the amount of a check decreases.  If an insurance company can decrease the amount of a check without problem, then making an adjustment to increase it should not be too difficult.

Most of all, it seems like the right thing to do.

What if I have other questions about workers compensation?

Georgia’s workers compensation system can be very confusing.  You have to worry about getting the treatment you need and paying your bills while also worrying about not missing any deadlines that could cause you to lose your right to receive workers compensation benefits.

If you have questions, I would recommend that you try to get answers.  To find out more about how to schedule a time to talk to me about your workers compensation questions, just read this short article.

Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers.  He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families.

To be notified of Jason’s new workers compensation videos, subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation Video Series channel on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below.

Brittney-lee orourkeBrittney-lee orourke
05:23 18 Feb 22
Amazing! Jason and his team were very helpful and had the best communication by far. Walked me though every step with great detail and had answers for any question I had. They handled my case better then I could imagine, it was a weird case and they stayed on top of it and kept me updated every step of the way! Highly recommend this Team! Thanks so much to Jason and his Awesome team!-Brittney
China JonesChina Jones
18:58 08 Feb 22
I absolutely love this group of attorneys, when I was at my lowest they did everything they could to help me get justice for my injury. I believe if I were to have never picked my phone up and called the amazing group that helped me I definitely would not have received my idea of rights. If you have an issue and are just not sure please understand that they will help you, stay in contact, answer any question you have, and for sure get you the justice you deserve I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I will definitely refer them to anyone who has been hurt because they most definitely care about their work and clients.
Luv LocsLuv Locs
16:08 15 Jan 22
The entire law office was attentive and responsive to all of my concerns dealing with my workers compensation case.
moombimoombi
21:14 02 Jan 22
If you must get a lawyer involved, you’d do well to work with Jason Perkins and his team at Perkins Studdard Law.They were thorough in gathering information and in sharing all the steps in the workers comp process specific to my case. Jason and the team were responsive to my bevy of questions and concerns.I appreciated the informative videos and consultations provided by Jason over video meetings and multiple phone calls.I hope I’m never injured on the job again. However, if I am and if my employer responds as my previous employer did, I’ll contact Perkins Studdard Law immediately to handle the case.
Dana BessDana Bess
23:57 10 Dec 21
Everyone at Perkins Studdard was kind and professional. They were always extremely responsive and answered all questions that I had and followed up to make sure I had an understanding of what was going on along with emailing videos to explain every step of my case so I would know what to expect and be prepared. Jason is a very genuine person and I trusted him with my case. He answered so many questions for me even before I retained him as my WC lawyer. I highly recommend him and his associates at Perkins Studdard.
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