Average Weekly Wage: How Do I Calculate It?

If you are a longshoreman, if you work at a dock, if you work at a shipyard, or if you are a maritime worker who does not work on a vessel, then most likely you are covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. (Longshore Act). In addition, if you are a civilian who works at a military base overseas, then you are covered by an extension of the Longshore Act, called the Defense Base Act.

Both the Longshore Act and its extension, the Defense Base Act, are federal workers’ compensation programs that will provide you with immediate coverage if you are injured in the course of your work duties. It is important to know a little about those Acts when you are considering the benefits available to you if you are in the unfortunate circumstance of getting injured at work.

More importantly, if you are injured on the job, you likely want to know exactly what kind of benefit payments you can expect. We all have bills to pay, and many people in this day in age live paycheck to paycheck. Therefore, an injury at work could be terribly disruptive to your life and the needs of your family. This article will briefly cover some of the things you need to know about the kind of income you can expect if you are injured on the job. The key to this discussion is that your workers’ compensation benefit under the Longshore Act is largely based on your average weekly wage.

The average weekly wage can be more difficult to ascertain than you may think. That is why, at the end of the day, you would be well served by having an experienced Longshore Act attorney help you calculate your average weekly wage, and maximize your benefit under the average weekly wage formula. At Doolittle & Tucker, we have the expertise to help you get the biggest benefit available to you. For a free case review, if you have been involved in a work-related accident covered by the Longshore Act, call Doolittle & Tucker at 904-396-1734. We have the know-how to make sure that you get the money in workers’ compensation that you are owed.

What is your Average Weekly Wage?

The average weekly wage, as the title suggests, is what you get paid on a weekly basis, on average. This number – your average weekly wage – serves as the basis for how much your workers’ compensation benefit will be.

While you think that it should be fairly easy to figure out the average weekly wage – after all, you do get paid weekly or bi-weekly at work – the calculation can be more complicated than you think. In fact, the average weekly wage is possibly the most heavily litigated question under the Longshore Act. And, if the average weekly wage is not calculated properly, you can really lose money.

How is the Average Weekly Wage Computed?

According to 33 U.S.C. § 910, the average weekly wage is computed as follows:

a) If the injured worker worked at the same job, or similar job, during most of the year, then his or her annual earnings equal 300 times the average daily wage for a six-day worker, or 260 times the average daily wage for a five-day worker.
b) If the injured worker did not work in the same or similar employment for most of the year, then the average weekly wage is based on the wage of a similar class of employee.
c) If a) or b) above cannot reasonably be applied to a particular case (such as when a worker is seasonal and works only part of the year), then an estimate of the average daily wage can be determined using a reasonable view of what the injured worker earned and/or what a worker in similar employment earns.

So, as an example, assume that you made $60,000 for the 52 weeks prior to your injury, you are five-day worker, and you worked 240 days the year before you were injured. Here is how you calculate your average weekly wage:

Step 1: Take your total actual annual earnings, and divide by the number of days you actually worked. With our numbers, $60,000 divided by 240 equals an average daily wage of $250.

Step 2: Under section a) above, as a five-day worker, you then multiply your average daily wage by 260 days, which equals annual earnings of $65,000.

Step 3: You divide those annual earnings by 52 weeks to arrive at an average weekly wage of $1,250.

Finally, the workers’ compensation benefit under the Longshore Act is typically 2/3 of your average weekly wage. Therefore, using the figures above, one can expect a weekly benefit of $1,250 x 2/3, which equals $825 per week.

Can Insurance Adjusters Calculate It Differently?

It is very possible that an insurance adjuster, either inadvertently or in trying to save the insurance company some money, may do a slightly different calculation of your average weekly wage.

Recall above that the amount of money our hypothetical injured worker actually made was $60,000 over the course of the prior 52 weeks. Because that worker only worked 240 days (when he could have worked a total of 260 days) the annual earnings number used for the benefit calculation came to $65,000, rather than $60,000.

An insurance adjuster, however, may simply use the $60,000 figure without accounting for the number of days the injured worker actually worked the previous year. If you do the calculations above using only $60,000 as the annual earning, then – after running the numbers – you get to a workers’ compensation benefit of only $762 per week. That is a $63 difference per week, which adds up over time (over $250 a month), and is a lot of money that does not end up in your pocket.

So, it is important that you get help to make sure that your average weekly wage is calculated properly, or otherwise you may be allowing the insurance company to keep a substantial sum of money that should go in your pocket. The best way to ensure that you are getting the maximum workers’ compensation benefit under the Longshore Act is to contact Doolittle & Tucker today. Our top-notch Longshore Act attorneys will do what it takes to make sure that you are properly compensated as you heal from your injuries. Call today at 904-396-1734.