Quite understandably, job injury victims are anxious to track their wage replacement checks. Most Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. In 2021, 68 percent of Americans did not have the cash to pay a $400 emergency expense. A few weeks without a paycheck, or even a few days without one, is financially devastating.
The ability to track workers’ compensation checks usually depends on the insurance company that’s issuing them. Some companies have internet or other tracking procedures in place. Others simply make victims wait until their checks come in the mail. In any event, the size of these wage replacement checks means a lot more than their arrival dates.
Medical bill payment works differently in different states. In most states, workers’ compensation insurance companies pay medical bills directly. In some states, insurance companies send this money to victims, who must then pay their providers.
Types of Wage Replacement Benefits
These rules vary significantly in different states. Overall, all lost wage replacement benefits are temporary or permanent disability benefits.
Before we get started, we should explain what a “disability” is. This D-word is not just a medical term. A disability also has vocational, educational, and other implications. In fact, when attorneys take workers’ compensation cases, they usually focus on the victim’s ability to work. The medical aspects of a claim are important, but secondary.
Most falls and other trauma injuries are temporary disabilities. Workers’ compensation usually pays two-thirds of a victim’s average weekly wage (AWW) for the duration of that temporary disability. If victims can work on a part-time or other limited basis as they recover, workers’ compensation usually pays two-thirds of the difference between their old and new AWW.
Most repetitive stress disorder and other occupational disease claims are permanent disabilities. Sometimes, the injury is completely disabling, according to the above definition, and the victim cannot work again. Other times, the injury is partially disabling. In both cases, workers’ compensation usually pays a lump sum, based on the nature and extent of the disability, as well as the victim’s anticipated future AWW.
Overlap is common. Many temporary disabilities don’t completely heal. These victims may or may not be entitled to permanent disability benefits, mostly depending on the state workers’ compensation length and whether the victim has hit MMI (maximum medical improvement).
Calculating the AWW
The benefits checks that victims track usually have different amounts. Typically, the AWW is not a fixed number.
New employee injuries are very common. These victims aren’t completely familiar with the job routine and environment. New employees are usually entitled to raises after a probationary period and/or prorated signing bonuses. The AWW calculation must reflect these future changes.
The AWW is especially difficult to calculate in permanent disability claims. Frequently, attorneys work with vocational experts and other individuals who predict the victim’s future earnings potential.