Legislative Happenings - Written by Jere Beasley on Monday, August 11, 2008 13:26 - 0 Comments

Alabama’s Unfair System Of Worker’s Compensation Laws Must Be Updated

It’s widely recognized that Alabama has one of the worst set of workers’ compensation laws in the nation. Workers in our state badly need a change in our archaic system. For example, Alabama’s compensation rates for permanent partial disabilities for workers who are hurt on the job, capped at $220 per week, are not only the lowest in the Southeast, but are the lowest in the entire country.  Of our neighbors, the closest state in terms of weekly compensation rates for permanent partial disability is Mississippi, which compensates its workers at close to $400 per week. The “220-cap,” as it is called, hasn’t been raised since Ronald Reagan was president.  During the 23 years since the 220-cap was put into place, costs have risen sharply for the goods and services consumers purchase. Alabamians know this because they have experienced it.   For example, gasoline has risen exponentially since 1985. Workers are paying more and more out of pocket just to get to and from work. We are now facing $4 per gallon for gasoline, thanks to our federal government’s failure to deal with an obvious problem.

To bring the antiquated Alabama workers’ compensation system up to date and give the badly-needed relief to the state’s injured workers, the Workers’ Compensation Section of the Alabama Association for Justice has proposed legislation that would improve injured workers’ lives and get them the care they need. The three bills that make up ALAJ’s workers’ compensation package are Senate Bills 389, 403, and 405.  Generally, the bills, which have been introduced only in the Senate, would lift the 220-cap and tie it to the state’s average weekly wage. In addition the bills, if they become law, would:

  1. cause the compensation rate to increase gradually with inflation;
  2. give injured workers more say over who their treating physician is;
  3. allow injured workers to continue to receive necessary care and treatment for injuries even while insurance companies fight over the costs of care and treatment;
  4. provide that employers must provide doctor-prescribed medical devices for injured workers; and
  5. provide protection from retaliatory discharge for injured workers filing comp and for third parties who testify on behalf of injured workers in comp cases.
Alabama’s workers deserve better treatment than the current system provides, and that must be changed.  The passage of SB389, SB403, and SB405 would certainly be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of opposition to these bills from special interest groups. If you agree that Alabama workers are entitled to a fair and equitable system of workers’ compensation laws, contact members of the Senate and ask for their support. It’s high time that we start treating Alabama workers with the respect they deserve!

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