All monetary workers’ compensation benefits are based on a number that is unique to each individual. It is called the “average weekly wage.” It is, in most cases, what the injured worker was making on average per week in the three months or so, prior to their injury. Specifically, it is based on the injured worker's gross earnings in the 14 weeks prior to the accident, divided by 14, to obtain the average. It's a significant number, because each class of benefits to which one may be entitled depends on this number. Temporary total benefits, temporary partial benefits. permanent impairment benefits and permanent and total disability all depend on the average weekly wage, or a fraction or portion thereof, in their calculation. On a yearly basis, the State also sets a state average weekly wage, which serves as a maximum benefit amount, or cap, if you will, for the benefits received by some injured workers. The maximum benefit amount for workers' compensation injuries occurring in 2020 is $1080. For Maryland workplace accident occurring in 2019, it was $1,116.
Because all workers compensation benefits are based on the average weekly wage, it is obviously vitally important to make sure that it's correct. There are situations where the rigid 14 week formula might not make sense, or at least no be fair
What if the injured worker had not worked for a full 14 weeks prior to getting hurt?
What if the worker had missed time, though no fault of their own, and had no income, during all or part the 14 week period prior to the injury?
What if the worker had bonus or incentives that occurred regularly, but not during the 14 week period?
Because of paramount nature of the average weekly wage, it is a key role of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to maximize that number- if circumstances warrant. The Workers' Compensation Commission, who decides the issues in a claim, has some discretion to depart from the rigid 14 week formula under appropriate circumstances. An effective worker's compensation lawyer may be able to assist you in maximizing your average weekly wages calculation, and accordingly, maximize your recovery.
I've handled hundreds of workers compensation cases over the years. Many of these cases at some point involved a determination of, or indeed litigation over, the proper calculation of the average weekly wage. If you've been injured at work, I'd be happy to meet with you and examine the average weekly wage or other issues that might arise during your claim. I offer such a meeting on a no cost basis.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 8/11/20.