In Georgia, determining how much you should receive each week when you have sustained a workers’ compensation injury and are unable to work begins with determining your average weekly wage. This is a tricky issue that often requires the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney because a number of factors from uniform allowance to how many hours you worked per week can come into play.
To begin, review your wage records from the thirteen weeks prior to the week of your injury. You should utilize your gross pay (before taxes, insurance, etc. are taken out), not your net pay (what your actual paycheck is.) Not counting the week of your injury, look to see if you worked the majority of the 13 weeks preceding the date of the injury. If you worked substantially the whole of the 13 weeks, add up your pre-tax weekly wages for those 13 weeks, and divide that number by 13. That is your average weekly wage. To determine how much your weekly benefit should be, divide that number by 1.5. That amount should be how much you are paid each week if you have been taken completely out of work by your doctor. For example, if your average weekly wage is $600, your weekly check should be $400. Note, the current cap on temporary total disability weekly benefits is $500.
If you are working reduced hours or at a lower rate of pay because you were placed on light-duty restrictions by your doctor, you will be receiving temporary partial disability benefits and your check should be equal to two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wage during the 13 weeks prior to your injury, and your actual weekly pay while working on light-duty.
If you did not work substantially the whole of the 13 weeks preceding the date of accident, you must use the following steps to determine your average weekly wage and corresponding benefits rate.
If you only worked 11 of the 13 weeks before the accident or maybe 2 out of 5 days in 3 of the 13 weeks (examples only), your attorney can and should argue that you did not work enough in the weeks leading up to your accident to accurately provide a fair average weekly wage. In this scenario, your attorney should request the wage records from your employer of a similarly situated employee to determine what your average weekly wage is. If a similarly situated employee exists, the wages of that employee for the 13 weeks leading up to your date of injury are used the same way as above. Your attorney needs to make sure the similar employee qualifies as “similar” – that is to say that the similarly situated employee has the same level of experience, schedule, rate of pay, bonus, number of years with the employer, etc.
If you did not work substantially the whole of the 13 weeks preceding the date of accident, and there are no similarly situated employees, then you are entitled to use your full-time pay to determine your average weekly wage and weekly benefits check. For example, if you worked at $11 per hour at 40 hours per week, your average weekly wage would be $440 ($11 x 40 hours a week). This would equate to a weekly TTD check in the amount of $293.33 (2/3 of your average weekly wage).
As stated above, determining your weekly benefits amount also takes into consideration other factors such as uniform allowance, vehicle allowance, and even the cost of food in some circumstances. Making sure your weekly benefits check is very important in any workers’ compensation case.