What is Average Weekly Wage?

Sick or injured workers in North Carolina may receive both medical benefits and weekly disability benefits. A big question the attorneys at Ricci Law Firm Injury Lawyers address is “how much will I get each week?” The answer is not as simple as you may think.

Determining Average Weekly Wage

It is very important for the Average Weekly Wage to be calculated correctly, because even a small mistake can result in huge consequences over the course of a claim. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act describes four methods for calculating it:

  • If the worker has worked for at least one year, the Average Weekly Wage is the total amount of money earned during the 52 weeks before the injury divided by the number of weeks worked. Any periods of seven or more days in a row not worked are excluded from the calculation.
  • If the worker has worked for less than a year, the Average Weekly Wage is the total amount of money earned during the employment divided by the number of weeks worked.
  • If the time of employment is so short that it would not be fair to apply the above method, then the Average Weekly Wage is based on the earnings of a similar employee, such as a co-worker.
  • If none of the first three methods would be fair, then the Average Weekly Wage is the closest approximation of the amount the worker would be earning if he or she had not been injured.

No matter which method is used, Average Weekly Wage calculations should include all overtime, bonuses, and even benefits such as housing, meals, and per-diems. Insurance adjusters often use the wrong method or forget to include overtime and bonuses in their calculations, so employees should be diligent to verify the calculation was done correctly.

Second Jobs

Unfortunately, employees working more than one job at the time of the accident do not get to count total earnings in their calculations. The Average Weekly Wage calculation is based ONLY on the wages earned in the job where they were injured. In other words, wages they earned in a second job (even if those wages were higher than the wages earned in the job where they were injured) do NOT count towards the Average Weekly Wage.

Calculating Compensation Rate

Once we know the employee’s Average Weekly Wage, the rest is simple. The actual compensation rate (the amount of the weekly check) is exactly 2/3 of the Average Weekly Wage. The only exception here is for very high earners, because the compensation rate is capped at an amount set yearly by the NC Industrial Commission. In 2019, the maximum compensation rate is $1,028.00.

If you have a question about the amount of your weekly disability check or believe your Average Weekly Wage was calculated incorrectly, contact a workers’ compensation attorney at Ricci Law Firm Injury Lawyers.

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I’m Brian Ricci, a workers’ compensation lawyer serving Greenville and Raleigh. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury at work, please call me at (252) 777-2222 or 800-387-6406 for free, friendly advice.

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