Why a Big Toe Is Worth $6K in California, $90K in Oregon

State payouts on body parts are way out of whack, investigation reveals
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2015 4:10 PM CST
Why a Big Toe Is Worth $6K in California, $90K in Oregon

Anyone with the misfortune to lose a limb on the job at least gets a decent workers' comp payout, right? Actually, it all depends on where they live, reports ProPublica and NPR. Here's a crazy example of what the joint investigation calls this "geographic lottery": Jeremy Lewis and Josh Potter lived 75 miles from each other when each lost part of his left arm in a machinery accident. Lewis got $45,000, while Potter will collect about $740,000. Reason: Lewis is in Alabama and Potter in Georgia. The figures vary wildly because states set their own payouts without any guidelines.

"Given their profound impact on people’s lives, how much compensation workers get for traumatic injuries seems like it would be the product of years of study, combining medical wisdom and economic analysis," write Michael Grabell and Howard Berkes. "But in reality, the amounts are often the result of political expediency, sometimes based on bargains struck decades ago." Which is why a big toe is worth $6,090 in California and $90,401.88 in Oregon. See this chart to compare various body parts in different states, or click here for the full piece. (More workers' compensation stories.)

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