Pam: So, you had mentioned that there are three basic benefits that an injured worker can get. One of those three was medical expenses. What are the other two?
Barry: The other two are temporary total disability, that’s the two-third share average weekly wage while you’re off, the other is permanent personal disability, which is the lump sum settlement you get at the end of the case, and it’s associated with the permanency that results from the injury.
Pam: I’d like to discuss the disability benefit. How much is it?
Barry: Okay, the basic temporary total disability benefit is two-thirds of your average weekly wage. Now, basically the idea behind this is that by paying somebody two-thirds of their average weekly wage while they’re off, it’s enough money to sustain somebody, but it’s not like they’re getting paid for not working. It’s going to be enough to keep a roof on their head, keep food on the table, but not let somebody just stay off work indefinitely.
The way that the amount gets calculated is based on the average of the last 52 weeks of work, okay? That’s how it gets calculated. There’s some caveats with that, though. One of those is that overtime is excluded from the calculation. So if you have a job where overtime is a significant part of your work, you may see a real significant difference between what you get for your temporary total disability check versus what you actually would normally take home.
Now there’s also a minimum and a maximum benefit, so if you’re a very high earner, you may find yourself getting the maximum TTD benefit, or the maximum disability benefit, but that may be well short of what you would normally take home, week in and week out. That’s basically how all that gets calculated.
So the key number in this is, your average weekly wage, and it’s an important number it applies not just with the disability benefit you get while your off, but it also figures into the calculation for the settlement you get when the case is over.
Pam: Okay. Now while you were saying that, I just had a random thought pop into my head. What happens if you have two jobs?
Barry: Okay, so if you have two jobs and your employer is aware of your second job, you actually add the wages that you make in both jobs into that calculation for what your average weekly wage is, and that could make a real big difference depending on which job you get hurt on.
I worked on a case a few years back where there was a young woman who just finished nursing school. She was working as a nurse on a labor and delivery unit making really pretty good money doing that, but she had student loans that were outstanding and she wanted to knock those down, so she was picking up a couple of shifts a week at a local bar and grill. She tripped going down the stairs one night and landed and she broke her elbow. She was off work from both her job at the bar and grill as well as her job at the hospital, because you can’t delivery babies with your arm in a cast.
The bar and grill, their insurance company, was attempting to pay her the disability benefits based just on what she made at the bar and grill, but it was actually a much higher number that she was really supposed to be paid because her wages at the hospital had to be calculated into what her average weekly wage was. For her that was a difference of several hundred dollars a week and eventually it played out to a difference of tens of thousands of dollars when her case was settled at the end.