When you are injured in Illinois and taken off work by your doctor, you get paid benefits called temporary total disability (TTD). Your TTD rate is 2/3 of your average weekly wage (AWW) and is tax-free although there is a weekly maximum on how much you can be paid based on when you were hurt. Currently, that amount is over $1700 a week. Even if you aren’t missing time from work, your average weekly wage is used to help calculate your settlement at the end of the case.
The average weekly wage is calculated based on Section 10 of the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. In determining your AWW, the basic explanation is we look at your earnings from the prior 52 weeks from your injury. So if you’ve worked at a company for years and are salaried at $52,000 a year, it doesn’t take a genius to determine that your average weekly wage is $1,000.00 a week. If you are paid by the hour and consistently work 40 hours a week, a wage sheet would help in the calculation.
Some people of course get hurt before they’ve been on the job for 52 weeks. In those cases, you divide by the actual weeks worked. So if you were hired 30 weeks ago, we’d divide by 30, not 52.
In a recent case I worked on with a lawyer friend from out of town, the injured worker is permanently disabled and is going to receive weekly payments for the rest of his life. He was hired about 10 weeks before his accident. His first workday was on a Thursday and he got hurt on a Tuesday. The insurance company took the first Thursday and Friday as one week and the Monday and Tuesday of the week he got hurt as another week. So they calculated his wages and divided by 10 weeks when in reality they should have done it by less than nine.
The difference amounts to over $70 a week, so over the last two years, he’s been underpaid by about $7,000.00. That’s item number one to look out for.
The second issue is that this job brought him along slowly. He didn’t work more than 35 hours during the first four weeks as there was some training involved. By week six he was doing the work that he was expected to which involved around 45 hours a week. Under Illinois law, when you’ve only been at the job a short while, your wages can be calculated by looking at a “similarly situated employee” and what they earn. There is no litmus test as to how many weeks’ time that is, but I’d argue that he was really only on the job for 4-5 weeks. So if they look at what a full-time employee working 45 hours a week makes, his actual AWW could be increased by over $200 a week. So he might be owed around $20,000.00. That’s a lot of money.
What you can’t do, unless you are salaried, is take the insurance company at their word that you are being paid the right amount. You might be or they might be ripping you off. I promise you that they aren’t doing whatever they can to make sure you are getting the most you are entitled to under the law.
If you have any questions about your pay rate and want to talk to a lawyer for free about it, contact us any time at 312-346-5578. We cover all of Illinois.