In our workers’ compensation practice, we often hear this question from injured workers. In fact, many clients are dissatisfied because typically the disability check is substantially less than a worker’s regular wages.
In Georgia, workers’ compensation pays the totally disabled worker two-thirds (2/3) of his or her average weekly wage. This check is not subject to income tax. The average weekly wage is determined by taking the average weekly salary for the 13 weeks prior to the injury. Once the average salary is computed in this way, the worker is paid two-thirds (2/3) of this amount.
Assume an injured worker’s average weekly wage is $600.00, what is the correct compensation rate? The employee, if totally disabled by the treating doctor, would receive a weekly worker’s compensation check in the amount of $400.00 (two-thirds (2/3) of the $600.00). This check would be tax free and be paid while the worker remains unable to work. There are limits to the number of weeks the benefits may be drawn unless the injury is catastrophic.
There is also a maximum amount that employers and insurance companies are required to pay. For work injuries occurring July 1, 2013 and after, $525.00 is the maximum workers’ compensation rate. Regardless of what the injured worker earned, he or she is limited by the $525.00 cap.
Frequently, we see cases where the insurance company is paying an incorrect lower compensation rate. The claim representative used the wrong average weekly wage or made a miscalculation benefiting the insurance company. In these cases, we work to get this issue corrected and insist on penalties and attorney’s fees for our client. The responsible insurance company is also required to go back and pay the correct amount back to the inception of the case. This can result in a substantial amount of money where the wrong workers’ compensation rate was being used for many months or years.
If you have concerns about the amount of your workers’ compensation check or other work injury questions, please contact our office for a free consultation.
Kenneth R. Bernard Jr. serves as the Managing Partner of Sherrod & Bernard, P.C. A native of Douglas County, Kenneth earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia. He then served his country as a Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of Captain during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. After his service, Ken returned home and joined forces with John Sherrod to launch Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., a law firm with a mission of providing superior legal services with a neighborly touch. In addition to his practice, Ken has served on several boards and committees, including three terms as Chairman of the University System of Georgia Foundation, Inc.