On July 1st of each year, the Alabama Commissioner of Labor determines the State’s average weekly wage to used in relation to injuries occurring on the job on or after July 1 of that year. Subject to maximum and minimum rates, temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are paid to workers in Alabama who are injured on the job at a rate of 66 2/3 of their average weekly wage. TTD benefits are paid during the “healing period” that follows an injury and continue until the worker reaches maximum medical improvement. Effective July 1, 2013, the maximum temporary total disability (TTD) benefit increased to $788 per week, meaning that if an employee earned $1,182 per week or $61,464 annually and was injured on the job, he or she would be paid a maximum TTD benefit of $788 per week.
It’s the other end of the spectrum that is so very troubling. In fact, when the minimum passes the maximum, you know you’ve got to make a change. The minimum TTD rate as of July 1, 2013 was $217.00 per week. Given the typical rate of annual increase, on July 1, 2014, the minimum temporary total disability benefit will reach or surpass $220.00 per week.
What is the significance of that? There are two caps on benefits applicable to Alabama workers’ compensation cases – a cap on the temporary benefits and a cap on the permanent benefits. While the rate of temporary benefits increases on July 1 of every year, the permanent partial disability benefit has been frozen in time since 1985. As was true in 1985 and is still true in 2013, the cap on permanent benefits in all permanent partial disability cases (that is, cases where the workers is less than 100% permanently and totally disabled) is a paltry $220 per week.
Think of it this way – the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. At 40 hours per week, a worker earning minimum wage is paid $290 per week. And that’s the minimum wage! Alabama’s cap on permanent partial disability benefits of $220 per week applies to all workers who receive job-related permanent injuries resulting in 1% through 99% loss of earning capacity. This is the equivalent of $5.50 per hour.
I invite you to contact your State Senator and State Representative and demand they change this unfair law. Don’t know who your state lawmaker is? Click on https://www.legislature.state.al.us/misc/zipsearch.html and enter your zip code. You will be given a link with the address and telephone number of your State Senator and State Representative. Tell them to change the $220 cap to a fair amount. Workers get are hurt on the job should not be forced into bankruptcy just because they are injured while doing their jobs.
“I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.” ― Abraham Lincoln
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt