ATTACK ON THE $220 CAP
Alabama Code §25-5-68 caps recovery of permanent partial disability benefits ("PPD") to injured workers to a maximum of $220 per week. Under Alabama’s workers’ compensation laws, employers get credit against any PPD obligations for non-scheduled injuries to the extent of any TTD benefits paid. Alabama Code §25-5-57(a)(3)g.
Recently, Birmingham attorney Larry King filed a motion in the case styled Shane Robinson v. Mid-South Control Systems seeking to have the $220 cap deemed unconstitutional. Judge Scott Vowell (Jefferson County), while denying Mr. King's motion, stated in his Order that the benefits cap set 23 years ago guarantees poverty for claimants and their families. Judge Vowell further stated that "the trial courts see these workers leave our courtrooms week after week, without the ability to support themselves or their families."
Judge Vowell deemed the cap unfair but not unconstitutional and called upon the Alabama Legislature to make the change. Several attempts have been made to change the $220 cap. The latest, introduced during the 2008 legislative session, called for linking benefits for permanent partial disabilities to the average-wage index. Specifically, SB 403 (Permanent Partial Disability Benefits) sought to remove the $220 cap on weekly workers’ compensation benefits and allow recovery to extend past 300 weeks for the "duration of the disability." The bill would also have allowed the court to consider evidence of vocational disability in virtually every case, even where the employee has returned to work earning more money. Finally, the bill would have eliminated scheduled member injury awards in any case where an employee sustains a loss of earning capacity. Fortunately, this bill (along with 4 others) never got out of committee.