Senator Arthur Orr represents District 3 which consists of Limestone, Madison, Morgan Counties in northern Alabama. Sen. Orr has indicated he will be introducing a bill in the next legislative session to make changes to Alabama’s workers’ compensation law. He says the changes will help in job creation. The truth is, they will help insurance companies keep more of the premiums they collect.
These changes will apply to every Alabama worker who is unfortunate enough to be injured on the job.
Not surprisingly, the changes will only benefit employers and insurance companies. Who will pay for these changes? The injured workers.
Sen. Orr’s proposed bill would make it illegal for a judge to consider the injured’s worker’s pain in most cases. If you get hurt on the job and have severe pain that your doctors believe to be credible, too bad - - the judge cannot consider your pain.
If a worker’s job-related injury is such that he is permanently and totally disabled, current law allows him to receive workers’ compensation benefits for the rest of his life. Sen. Orr’s proposed bill would let the insurance company off the hook as soon as the worker reaches age 65. This proposed change will benefit insurance companies at a time when most workers are living longer lives and at a time when you have to turn 67 to collect Social Security benefits.
What else is Sen. Orr wanting to give to the insurance companies? Under current law, probably the most generous aspect of the law is that medical treatment remains open for life after a job-related accident. Sen. Orr wants to change that so that if an injured worker goes without medical treatment for a certain time period, the right to receive medical is over. The insurance companies win; the injured worker loses.
Finally, what happens if you go to trial in your workers’ compensation case and win? Sen. Orr wants to give the appeals courts the right to re-weigh the evidence and decide whether to over turn the trial judge’s decision.
What does Sen. Orr give back to injured workers in exchange for helping the insurance companies? He gives them a $20.00 per week raise and increases the amount of permanent partial disability benefits from $220.00 per week to $240.00 per week. Put another way, at a time when minimum wage is $7.25 per hour or $290.00 per week, the rate paid to injured workers will increase from $5.50 an hour to $6.00 per hour. If a worker suffers a severe injury on the job and is 99 percent disabled or less, he is capped at $220.00 per week under Alabama’s unfair law but Sen. Orr will “allow” injured workers another $20.00.