People who get injured at work and are receiving workers’ compensation benefits are paid based on their pre-injury gross (pre-tax) average weekly wage (AWW). This is the legal term for the average gross wages earned 52 weeks (1 year prior) to the injury. So, if you were injured on April 30, 2013, your pre-injury gross average weekly wage would be calculated by taking all of the gross wages you earned from April 30, 2012 to April 29, 2013 (including any pay for overtime, bonuses, and housing or living expenses) and dividing that figure by 52 weeks. This will give you your pre-injury average weekly wage.
Why is this important?
Workers’ compensation insurance, in Virginia, pays injured workers 2/3rds of the pre-injury average weekly wage when they are unable to work due to their injuries. This is referred to as the compensation rate or “comp rate.” Even if you are still collecting lost wages from workers’ compensation insurance 3 years after the injury, the wages will still be paid based on this pre-injury average weekly wage figure. This figure can increase slightly as the result of a yearly cost of living adjustment (see previous blogs on cost of living adjustment (COLA) for more info on this) but, with the exception of the COLA increase,it will remain the same.
If you go back to work on light duty and are making LESS THAN 2/3RDS OF THE PRE-INJURY AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGE, you can also be paid workers’ compensation wages up to the 2/3rds figure (this is called Temporary Partial Disability or “TPD”).
Mark earns an annual salary of $31,200 and has a pre-injury average weekly wage of $600 ($31,200 / 52 weeks). Mark’s compensation rate is $400 (2/3rds of $600). He receives $400 from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier while he is off of work. Mark then returns to work on light duty working 10 hours a week for $9 an hour. Mark is earning $90 a week and can ask the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to pay him TPD benefits of $340 (the difference between what his gross earnings are now and his pre-injury AWW times 2/3rds).
WARNING – If you are on light duty restrictions but your employer will not accommodate your light duty status or doesn’t have work for you in a light duty capacity, you may need to be marketing (looking for a job elsewhere within your light duty restrictions), depending on your situation. This can get very confusing, so make sure you contact an attorney to talk about the particulars in your situation. I see so many injured workers lose benefits because they were misinformed about marketing/job searches.
If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this link, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.