How Do I Recover Wages After an On-the-Job Injury?
Injured employees get their medical care covered by coordinating communication between their health care provider and workers' compensation insurance carriers. But what about the wages they lose if they aren't able to work during recovery? Despite the law requiring a set formula for the calculation of lost wages, this benefit is disputed often.
Am I Eligible for Lost Wage Benefits in My Workers' Comp Claim?
In order to get lost wage benefits, the employee or their attorney must calculate the average weekly wage (AWW). To find the AWW, find the gross (or pretax) sum of the wages for the 13 weeks (or 91 days) preceding the injury. Divide this number by 13, and the result is the average wage for one week. If the wage is adjusted during that 13-week period, use the new wage for the days it was effective.
The Florida workers' compensation law requires that injured workers be paid between 66 2/3% and 80% of their average weekly wage depending on the severity of their injuries and the status of their employment.
There are some common problems in computing the AWW, including:
- Workers can get hurt within the first week of working
- People may not work 13 weeks consecutively, such as seasonal workers
- Part-time employees have a significantly lower AWW and usually no benefits
- Many occupations, such as waiters and waitresses, rely on tips for a large part of their income
- Other benefits may account for a large amount of the employee's compensation
Can I Get Lost Wage Benefits for a Job I Just Started?
How is the average weekly wage calculated if the employee is injured during their fifth week of working? When the employee's own past wages are insufficient for calculating the AWW, the number is computed by averaging the wages of a similar employee. Coworkers are considered "similar" when they have:
- The same job
- Approximately the same work schedule
- The same wage
The similar employee needs to have worked a substantial amount of the last 13 weeks as well.
Lost Wage Benefits for Seasonal WorkersSeasonal workers may be full time but only for short periods during the year. They are covered by workers' compensation, but may have difficulty calculating an AWW. If the injured employee was seasonal, then they need to consider their wages from the 52 weeks prior to the accident. Because this is a much longer time period, they need to provide proof of the wages through tax forms or other official documents.
Lost Wage Benefits for Part-time Workers
Part-time employees may have fluctuating schedules that make them earn more money one week than another. The standard equation for average weekly wage is used for employees who meet all three of the following criteria:
- They were working part time when they were injured
- They preferred part time work
- If they weren't injured, they would continue working part time
Are Tips & Commission Included in Calculating Lost Wage Benefits?
Waiters, waitresses, and many other employees in the service industry rely on tips for a substantial portion of their earnings. These employees can add their tips, commissions, and other untaxed income to the AWW equation if their employer knows that it is a part of the employee's income. Also, the employee must have reported the earnings on their income tax returns in order for it to qualify.
Some benefits, including sick leave, vacation, annual leave, employer contribution to group insurance plans, are considered to be within the scope of "wages" when calculating the AWW. An experienced attorney can consult you on the lost wage benefits you can expect during your workers' compensation case. Our offices are capable and prepared to handle any problem that arises.