Law Offices of Gallner & Pattermann, P.C. - Personal Injury

Representing those injured in Iowa and Nebraska since 1974

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How Much Is An Arm Worth?

It may depend on where you live

Workers' compensation benefits are determined at the state level, and over the last 10 years, states have cut these benefits drastically. As a result, costs of workplace accidents are being shifted to taxpayers, and injured workers are not getting the help they need. The changes have forced taxpayers "to subsidize the vast majority of the lost income and medical care costs generated by these conditions," the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a recent report.

The wide disparity means that similar workers in different states may end up with dramatically different compensations for the same injury. Take the example of two men, Jeremy, a 27-year-old Alabama resident, and Josh, 25, from Georgia. These two men lived within 75 miles of each other, and both lost a portion of their left arms when injured on the job in machinery accidents. Jeremy received $45,000 in workers' compensation benefits while Josh received benefits that could amount to over $740,000 over his lifetime.

Jeremy's family was forced to subsidize his medical bills out of their own pockets. Subsequently, he lost his three-bedroom house in a new subdivision and three new cars, and was forced to move to a rundown trailer park on the outskirts of town.

States Set Injury Rates

The reason for the huge disparity is that Alabama has the country's lowest benefits for amputations, while Georgia compensates much more for injuries like this. Each state is allowed by the U.S. Congress to determine its own benefits, and there are no federal requirements in place for minimum compensation amounts.

It's grim to say, but almost every state divides the body up much like you see a beef or pig chart to determine their schedule of benefits. A specified number of weeks away from work is allowed for each body part, which then determines the portion of wages awarded to the worker. States also have a state maximum cap.

So the loss of an arm is worth about $48,000 in Alabama but worth nearly ten times as much ($439,000) in Illinois.

This wildy varying system of benefits drives both employees and employers crazy. We can cite another case in Jasper, Alabama, where a woman lost all of her fingers except her pinkie in a wood conveyor accident. Rather than pay a larger sum for her entire hand, the insurance company instead paid benefits per finger, a much lower amount.

Attorneys Protect Injured Workers' Interests

Nationwide, we are seeing a loss of protections for workers, with companies now paying the lowest workers' comp amounts in the last 40 years. The only glimmer of hope seems to be that some states are seeing the light and are changing their workers' comp laws to be more competitive with neighboring states to become more attractive to businesses in their state.

If you suffer a work-related injury or illness, it is always wise to work with a knowledgeable workers' compensation attorney who will protect your interests and help maximize the amount of benefits you recover.

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