When it comes to calculating what a case is worth, the biggest factor is your injury, treatment and recovery. But it’s not the only factor. The other huge issue is what is your average weekly wage. (“AWW”). That dollar amount is used to calculate your benefit rates. The more you earn, the higher your weekly payout and settlement will be. Illinois work comp law has us look at the 52 weeks prior to the accident to determine what the right amount is.
If you are a salaried employee and make $52,000.00 a year, then your average weekly wage is $1,000.00. If you are an hourly employee, we look at your hourly wage and actual weeks worked to determine what the proper AWW is.
Most employees AWW calculations are straight forward. Some aren’t though. If you work overtime, for example, that may or may not be included in your calculation. The same is true if you have a second job.
For other workers there is pay that isn’t guaranteed like incentive pay. A new Illinois Circuit Court ruling has clarified how that pay should be used in determining what you made and it’s a huge win for workers.
A union worker got injured on the job. His testimony was that his compensation was based on the union bargaining agreement. Part of this pay included “rank payout” which was a system that created an incentive to do a good job and rewarded those who did the best.
The insurance company argued that this additional pay should not be included. At first they won and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission didn’t include it in in the calculation. On appeal though the Circuit Court found that since the incentive pay was a contractual obligation so it was included in his calculation and brought his yearly compensation to over $90,000.00 and his AWW to over $1,743.00.
Given how serious this injury was, the work of his lawyer in getting this right literally put many more thousands of dollars in the pocket of the injured worker.
Bottom line is that you should have EVERY dollar you make looked at in determining what you really earned. Sometimes stuff like holiday pay doesn’t get included when it should. Other times you want something included and it’s not. Either way, you should look in to it all.
Bonus tip, just because the insurance company wrongly paid you off of one wage doesn’t mean you can’t retroactively get reimbursed once the right wages are calculated. We’ve been involved in cases where a worker was off the job for more than a year and then when we discovered the true wages they received a lump sum of over ten thousand dollars. Getting the right wages is huge.