Your Average Weekly Wage:  What’s In and What’s Out

In previous blogs we have talked about the average weekly wage.  When dealing with workers’ compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (Longshore Act), the Defense Base Act, or even the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act, the average weekly wage is very important number.

Why is it important?  Because if you are injured on the job, and you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, the average weekly wage figures prominently into what your disability income will be while out on workers’ compensation.  So, getting familiar with the average weekly wage number is something worth doing.

Of course, it is also immensely helpful if you could have a Longshore Act attorney in your corner to help you out.  In that vein, you may want to consider calling us at Doolittle & Tucker at 904-396-1734.

For decades we have helped injured workers fight for the compensation they deserve under the Longshore Act, the Defense Base Act, and the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act. The reason we started this firm is because we feel so strongly for injured workers who, all too often, get taken advantage of by profit-focused workers’ compensation insurance companies.

So, if you have been injured in a work-related accident and you want to make sure that you are getting the appropriate amount of disability benefits during your recovery, then we invite you to speak to one of our Longshore Act attorneys.

The Average Weekly Wage:  The Ins and Outs

The average weekly wage is the figure that serves as the basis for how much workers’ compensation benefits you can receive on disability.  Consequently, it is important to know what goes into the average weekly wage number, and to maximize that number as much as possible.

As you would expect, your actual salary or pay per hour will obviously be significant in determining your average weekly wage.  However, there are some other types of compensation that fall under the average weekly wage calculation that may not initially come to mind.

Those other allowable types of compensation, however, should be considered because they may serve to increase your overall average weekly wage.  A higher average weekly wage translates into higher workers’ compensation benefits – a good thing for you indeed.

Let’s take a little time to talk about those other types of compensation that make up part of the average weekly wage calculation, and what types of compensation may not fall under the average weekly wage.  In short, let’s talk about “what’s in and what’s out” with regard to the average weekly wage.

  • What’s In
  1. Meals.  In many occupations, particularly ones in which employees are required to travel frequently, employers will pay a “per diem” to employees for meals and other expenses while traveling.  There have been several court cases, dating back to 1932, that hold that per diem payments made to employees to pay for meals while traveling should be included in calculating the average weekly wage.  That is so even though per diem pay is not subject to income taxes.
  2. Room and Board.  Based on the same rationale as meals for employees who must travel, room and board can also be compensation that is included when calculating the average weekly wage.  In many employment contexts, a per diem payment will cover meals as well as room and board.
  3. Vacation and Holiday Pay.  Just like vacation and holiday pay is considered “income” for tax purposes, those types of compensation are considered “wages” for the calculation of average weekly wage.
  4. Bonuses.  In some jurisdiction, there might be some question as to whether bonuses are considered compensation for average weekly wage purposes.  Yet, there have been a number of court decisions that have held that bonuses (that are not part of a profit-sharing plan) are something of value received as consideration for work.  Therefore, bonuses can be included in the average weekly wage calculation.
  5. Shift Differential.  The increase in pay someone receives for working the evening shift, or the “graveyard” shift, is compensation that is part of the average weekly wage calculation.  It is not a separate premium outside of a “regular” amount of shift pay.
  6. Overtime.  Similar to bonuses and shift differentials, overtime pay is part of the average weekly wage calculation.  If you are someone who works a lot of overtime, then it is vitally important that you include that extra money in your average weekly wage calculation.
  7. Payment in Kind, in lieu of Money.  If you receive some type of payment in kind, then that is compensation includable in the average weekly wage.  For example, if you work for an auto shop, and you receive auto parts as part of your compensation at the shop, then the value of those parts – the payment in kind – is calculated as part of your average weekly wage.
  •   What’s Out
  1. Post-Injury Bonus.  While bonuses are typically included in the average weekly wage calculation, bonuses received after an injury occurs are not.  The key question is whether the compensation was received for work.  Post-injury bonuses, of course, cannot be connected to work.
  2. Fringe Benefits.  Contributions to retirement, medical, disability, or other benefit plans fall outside of the type of compensation that can be included in a person’s average weekly wage.
  3. Lost Time Due to Illness, Labor Strikes, etc.  Courts typically omit those weeks during which an employee is out of work due to illness or is on strike.

Let Longshore Act Attorneys Use Their Expertise to Help You

As you can see, the calculation of your average weekly wage for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits is a little more involved than you may think.  There are some types of compensation that you may not initially believe are considered “wages” for average weekly wage purposes, but should be part of the calculation.

If you have been injured at work, you should get the help of an experienced Longshore Act attorney. At Doolittle & Tucker, we understand the many different types of compensation that are included in the average weekly wage calculation. With that knowledge, we are able to help our clients maximize the average weekly wage number. In so doing, we ensure that our clients get the maximum benefit from workers’ compensation. Call us today so we can help you maximize that all-important average weekly wage number. We will give you a free case review when you call 904-396-1734.