You’ve had a covered accident at work and you’ve waited the requisite time period to start receiving your weekly check. Lo and behold, the check doesn’t even come close to your take home pay. In fact it’s a lot less. What do you do now?
Georgia workers’ comp law states that you are entitled to receive 2/3 of an average of 13 weeks of your gross earnings before your accident. For example, if you had an accident on June 30, 2016 and average gross earnings of $900, 2/3rds would be $600. Wait, don’t be too hasty. You wouldn’t even be entitled to $600 because there also is a maximum rate of $550.00 for that particular date of injury. (A table of maximum comp rates are below.)* Now going back to our topic on how to increase your weekly check if you are not receiving the max rate.
1. First, you will want to request a copy of the Wage Statement which is on the back of Board form WC-1 First Report of Injury or the old WC-6 Wage Statement that is sometimes still used. Look this statement over carefully and see if the wages used are yours and whether the gross instead of the net was used. Request your payroll history unless you have your pay stubs so you have them to compare to. If these are your gross wages and are accurately recorded, go to the next step.
2. Your second step will be to determine whether you worked “substantially the whole” of 13 weeks. Now you’re thinking what the dickens does that mean? Does that mean you had to work some hours each of the 13 weeks? Or at least 12 of the 13 weeks? What if you had a slow-down in the plant? Or your job got rained out for 3 weeks? Well, it does get a bit complicated, but let me try to help make sense of the “substantially the whole” phrase. If you missed 1 week out of the 13 weeks, it would still be substantially the whole of 13. But, if you missed 2 weeks out of the 13, you can bet the bank it’s not substantially the whole, and ask for the wages of similar employees or your full-time wage if there are no similar employees. Note, if your hours normally vary, this doesn’t count as not “substantially the whole. However, if there were several weeks where your hours were cut and you worked less hours I’d argue you did not work “substantially the whole” of 13 weeks. If your weekly check is still below the maximum go to the third step.
3. Tips paid by customers should be included in your weekly wage to increase your weekly check. Even tips not reported to the IRS can be included. Still haven’t reached the maximum comp rate, move on to the next step.
4. The fourth step is to check for bonuses. Of course bonuses during the 13 weeks before the date of accident are considered. But, wait for this….end-of-year bonuses are considered even though not paid during the 13 weeks preceding the date of accident. Nifty, huh? Still not there, one final step…
5. Fifth and final step is to check for any financial benefit or gain paid to you by your employer including food and housing and automobile expenses. Keep in mind, the fair and reasonable value of the food and housing will be used. And, only where you received a real economic gain on the auto expenses after deducting for actual costs.
We at Affleck & Gordon are available 24/7 to assist you with any questions you may have on these steps to increase your weekly check.
*Table of maximum temporary total disability rates
1. $575 July 1, 2016 to present
2. $550 July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016
3. $525 July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015
4. $500 July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2013