The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Court recently awarded 11 years of back pay totaling $177,000 to a man who was paralyzed in a work accident in 2002. An issue in the case was whether the man was entitled to an adjustment of his average weekly wage. The court concluded that he was and awarded him an increase dating back to the date of the injury.
The claimant was 20 years old when he suffered a serious back injury while working as a camp counselor and was left a paraplegic. At the time of the initial claim, his average weekly wage was based solely on his monetary pay without taking into account the room and board he received under his employment. Not surprisingly, his employer argued that because a monetary value was not assigned to his room and board under the terms of his contract, it should not be included in his average weekly wage calculations.
The Workers’ Compensation Court agreed with the injured worker, stating that “value assigned to room and board cannot abrogate the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act.” Before the court decision, the man had been living on less than $200 per week.
Average Weekly Wage Calculations
The decision in this case illustrates the importance of correctly calculating the average weekly wage in any workers’ compensation claim. The amount that a claimant receives in workers’ compensation benefits is based on this calculation.
A claimant’s recent income is used to determine average weekly wage. The minimum compensation rate is the lower of 90 percent of the worker’s average weekly wage or 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. The maximum rate is determined by the Department of Labor and Industry, which bases the amount on the statewide average weekly wage. As of 2013, the maximum weekly compensation rate is $917.
Although it may seem unimportant to argue over a few dollars when calculating average weekly wage, the difference can add up to a significant amount if the claimant was seriously injured or if complications keep the worker from returning to work for a long period of time.
If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness in Pennsylvania, there is a good chance that you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. It is in your best interest to ensure that you receive every dollar to which you are entitled by making sure that your average weekly wage is calculated properly. Although the workers’ compensation system is intended to protect injured workers, it’s hard to navigate alone. If you have questions or concerns about your legal rights to compensation, contact the Worker’s Compensation at Shor & Levin, the Bulldog Lawyers, at 855-860-8548 or use our Worker’s Compensation.