When you are injured at work – and unable to return to work as a result – you are typically entitled to ongoing weekly workers’ compensation checks to replace your lost income. In North Carolina, these weekly checks are called “temporary total disability benefits.” So how do you find out if you are receiving the right amount each week?
To calculate the amount that you are entitled to, you have to first determine your average weekly wage or what you were earning on average per week before your workplace accident. The law in North Carolina provides four ways to calculate what you may be entitled to for your missed time from work.
If you have been working with the same employer for the previous 52 weeks and you have not missed more than seven consecutive days from work, then you can use the standard calculation. If you fall under this category, you take your pre-tax earnings from the 52 weeks before the date of your injury and divide by 52. Bonuses and any daily per diem should be included when calculating your wages.
For example, let’s say Jack was injured on the job. Jack looks at his pre-tax earnings (also called gross earnings) and finds that he made $52,000 in the 52 weeks prior to his injury. This makes his calculation easy: $52,000 / 52 weeks = $1,000 per week.
If you have been working with the same employer for the previous 52 weeks and you have missed more than seven consecutive days, then you need to remove the gaps in employment. For example, if you were out of work for 4 weeks within the last 52 weeks then that would mean that you only worked 48 weeks. Instead of dividing your pre-tax earnings by 52 weeks, you would need to divide it by 48 weeks. You weren’t earning a wage, so those weeks basically don’t count. Removing these days where you were not working and earning income will increase your average weekly wage.
Jorge was off for three weeks a few months back, but has been otherwise working. He calculates that he earned $38,000 before taxes in the last 52 weeks. He subtracts out the three weeks he was without work, so his calculation looks like this: $38,000 / 49 (that’s 52 weeks, minus the three he was out of work) = $775.51 per week.
If you have only been with the employer for a few months prior to the accident, then you would want to use the third method of calculation. Under this method, you would need to obtain wage information for a similar employee. Once you have this similar employee’s wage information, you use Method 1 from above to calculate your average weekly wage.
Karla has only been working this job for two months. Because she doesn’t have as much history, she has to find a similar employee to herself for an equitable comparison. She knows Ronnie has been doing the same job as she has for more than a year. Using Ronnie’s income of $44,000, she can use Method 1 above. $44,000 / 52 weeks = $846.15 per week.
Lastly, there is a catch all provision that allows the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC), which is the entity that handles workers’ comp issues in North Carolina, to look at other factors in determining what is fair. In the event that none of the above methods are appropriate for calculating your average weekly wage, you would need to find another way to determine the amount that you would have been earning if you had not been injured at work. If you received a recent raise or had some change in your employment status which impacted your earnings, this may be the most appropriate method.
Shawn has been working with the same company for a while. He was making $50,000 a year, but he received a raise two months ago, which bumped him to $60,000. In this case, Shawn would file a hearing request with the Commission and ask to be compensated based his current weekly wage, even though he has not been earning that amount for 52 weeks.
Final Step: Weekly Wage Multiplier
Using the information above, you can determine your average weekly wage. However, there is still one more step. You have to take your average weekly wage before taxes, and multiply it by 0.6667. This results in what is called your compensation rate. This determines the amount that you should be receiving per week while you are out of work.
Tyree has calculated that he was making $1,168 per week prior to his injury at his job. To get his compensation rate for workers’ compensation “temporary total disability benefit” check, he multiplies that by 0.6667. The total is $778.70, and that’s the amount that each of his weekly checks should be.
It is important to remember that workers’ compensation checks are not taxable.
What if My Workers’ Compensation Checks Are Not as Much as They Should Be?
By law, you are entitled to 66 and 2/3 percent of your pre-injury wages. These workers’ compensation benefits are called temporary total disability payments and, as we said, they are not taxed.
The insurance company may not correctly calculate your compensation rate, which would lead to you receiving less than what you are entitled to receive. They may forget to include bonuses or commissions, leave out income from concurrent employment with other employers, or fail to remove periods of missed time from work.
If you feel that you are being underpaid, you should consult an attorney to see if your compensation rate was inappropriately calculated. Not only would you potentially be entitled to on-going temporary total disability checks at a higher rate, but you may also be owed a lump sum for the underpayment.
If You’ve Been Injured at Work and Aren’t Sure You’re Getting All Your Benefits, Contact an Experienced Attorney
Are you getting the right amount in your weekly checks? Even if your checks look right, it’s a good idea to talk with an attorney. It doesn’t cost you anything to have us review your situation. Not only could this lead to an increase in your weekly workers’ compensation checks, but you may also be entitled to a lump sum payment for the period where you were underpaid. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation, or simply contact us online.