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Know your Average Weekly Wage
When an worker sustains an on the job injury, known as an “accidental injury,” in the State of Maryland, the value of the indemnity (or money) benefits will depend in part on the injured worker’s average weekly wage. This is an important factor that must be considered in maximizing the benefits paid to an injured worker throughout the course of his or her workers’ compensation case. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist the client in making sure the average weekly wage is correct by reviewing whether the average weekly wage includes overtime, bonuses, meal allowances, and vacation pay, in addition to the client’s regular earnings or wages.
The average weekly wage is determined in the early stages of a workers’ compensation case. There is a section on the Employee’s Claim Form where the injured worker enters the amount he or she believes accurately reflects the average weekly wage. The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission uses that figure in its initial award. The employer is bound by that figure unless the employer files a wage statement with the Commission within sixty days of the date of the initial award. It is important for a workers’ compensation lawyer to review the wage statement to make sure that it accurately reflects the average weekly wage.
The attorneys at Jenkins, Block and Associates, P.C., scrutinize the wage statement upon receipt of the statement from the employer or workers’ compensation insurer. If the wage statement reflects an amount different from that on the Employee’s Claim Form, it is our practice to contact our client and investigate the discrepancy. Further, our attorneys explain to our clients the importance of the average weekly wage in calculating workers’ compensation benefits so that our clients have a reasonable expectation of the benefits to be paid throughout the course of their claim.
Generally, the average weekly wage is determined by taking the average of the injured worker’s earnings for the 14 weeks prior to the accidental injury. If the 14 week period includes times of involuntary layoffs, then such times are to be excluded from the average weekly wage calculation. Additionally, the week when the injury takes place is excluded from the calculation.
One scenario where the average weekly wage can negatively impact an injured worker is when the injured worker has both a full-time job and a part-time job. If the injured worker sustains an injury on the part-time job, the average weekly wage only includes earnings on that job, meaning the higher full time earnings are not taken into account. Thus, if the injury results in an inability to work at both jobs, the workers’ compensation benefits only reflect the part-time job. The resulting gap between what the injured worker was earning on both jobs and the compensation benefits paid while the worker was unable to work may place a significant financial burden on the injured worker.
Understanding how workers’ compensation benefits are calculated is vital for injured workers. If you have sustained an injury on the job in Maryland, please consider contacting the attorneys at Jenkins, Block and Associates. We can help guide you through the complex workers’ compensation system. Consultations with our attorneys are free of charge, so please call us 1-800-243-7122. Let us assist you in maximizing your workers’ compensation benefits.