One reason that one case could be worth way more than someone who works a different job but has the exact same injury is your average weekly wage. The higher your wages, the more your case is going to worth. That’s because your lost time (TTD) and settlement (PPD) benefits are based on how much you were earning at the time of the accident.
Insurance companies like to make money and one way they do that is by trying to keep your wage down. Some examples include telling you that overtime doesn’t count or saying you worked 52 weeks in a year when you really only worked 49. These little savings can hurt you and really add up for them.
Another way they do it is by denying some of your fringe benefits that are really a financial gain for you. By that I mean if you take a client out to lunch and pay for it, the company reimbursing you isn’t really giving you a financial gain. On the other hand, if you get a per diem where they give you a certain amount of money per day to do with as you please, that’s a financial gain.
This law was established in a case involving a United Airlines employee. In that case a flight attendant was given $100 a day that was included in her pay checks along with her hourly wage. What it came down to was how much was this woman spending per day out of the per diem and how much was she pocketing? If she spent $40 and saved $60 on average then her average weekly wage should be increased by $60.
Of course some per diems are even larger and many people pocket almost the entire thing, so this can be a very big deal. The same can be true for things such as housing allowances or if they give you a certain amount of money to purchase health insurance if you want. All of these fringe benefits matter to you and when they are real money in your pocket, they matter to your work comp case.
My wife used to work at a place where they paid for her meals and cab ride home if she stayed past 7 p.m. It’s not currently the law, but I’d argue that those things also should be considered an economic benefit because it saved her money on train and food expenses four nights a week. She still would have had to travel home, but instead of going home and making dinner and paying for it, she had the bonus of free meals.
Bottom line is that you should think of everything you are getting beyond your normal pay check and your lawyer should be asking you this too. If you want to know if something should be included, call us any time for a free opinion.