Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, the amount you get paid for your time off work and your settlement is based on your average weekly wage (AWW). If you make $20 an hour and work 40 hours a week, your average weekly wage is $800. It’s not usually complicated. If you are salaried, we divide your salary by 52 weeks.
The goal is for your AWW to be is high as possible. We want you to get every penny you are legally entitled to. While the wage calculation is straight forward in most cases, in others it’s not. This is true when there is bonus compensation.
The good news is that the lines on this issue are getting less blurry thanks to a recent court case. Ironically it’s all thanks to an insurance adjuster for Zurich Insurance. In her job as a claims handler, she was injured while attending a mediation when a door hit her shoulder and back. As part of her claim she argued that her bonus compensation should be included in her average weekly wage.
At trial she testified that she had job duties which included a diary management system that measured performance. Every month she met with her manager to discuss how much money they had recovered versus their goals. How well she did or didn’t do affected her compensation. Failure to complete a diary on time had negative financial implications for her. Her work was clearly part of an incentive-based pay program.
When part of your bonus is a result of incentive payment, it should be included in your AWW calculation. This case made me smile because work comp insurance companies like Zurich spend a lot of time and effort trying to limit how much compensation injured workers receive. In this case it was one of their own insurance adjusters they were trying to screw over and ultimately their improper actions have helped clarify what the law is.
For you, as an injured worker, if your bonus is at all a result of your performance (as compared to everyone getting the same holiday bonus for example) then we’d argue that your work comp payments should be based on that money. This means more money in your pocket so it’s important to get it right.
The lesson is that if an insurance company will not do the right thing for one of their own adjusters, you can’t expect them to do the right thing for you. If you’d like a free consultation with an attorney to discuss what your wage should be or anything else about your claim, please fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578. We cover all of Illinois.