Many workers who are injured on the job are surprised to learn that they will not be receiving their regular salary in weekly workers’ compensation benefits while they are receiving medical treatment for their work-related injuries. These employees may wonder if they are actually receiving all of the benefits to which they are entitled.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act does not require the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to pay the injured worker their full weekly salary.
The Act first requires the insurer to determine the worker’s Average Weekly Wage. The Average Weekly Wage is determined by looking back at the weekly wages earned during the one-year period immediately prior to the date of injury. That means that the insurer will look back at the 52 weeks prior to the date of injury, and take an average of what the worker earned over those weeks to determine the worker’s average, 40-hour salary for that time period.
If the employee worked less than 40 hours in a given week during this one-year time period, the wage for that week will be computed based on the number of hours that were actually worked. If the worker has not been at this particular job for one year, then the average salary for the number of weeks that were actually worked in this time period may be used.
This figure, based on amounts earned during the 52 weeks prior to the date of injury, becomes the worker’s Average Weekly Wage for determining workers’ compensation benefits.
In very limited circumstances, overtime hours may be included in the computation of the Average Weekly Wage. However, this only occurs in situations where the overtime hours are “required” to be worked by the employer, or when overtime hours occur so frequently that they are considered to be “regularly worked” hours. Although such situations do occur, these overtime hours can be included only in these very limited circumstances. In addition, even when overtime hours are figured into the Average Weekly Wage, they are only figured in at the regular hourly rate, and not at “time and a half” or “double time.”
Once the Average Weekly Wage is determined, the workers’ compensation insurer will then take the Average Weekly Wage figure, and multiply it times two-thirds.
This amount is the weekly benefit the worker will receive, and it is this amount that the insurer is required to pay to the injured worker, by law, so long as the worker is continuing to receive medical treatment. The Act does provide for minimum amounts that must be paid, as well as maximum amounts that limit the amount the insurer has to pay. In certain circumstances, the benefit can be increased based on the number of dependents the worker has in his or her household. However, the weekly amount the worker receives will almost certainly be less than the weekly salary they were earning prior to their injury.
The computation of the Average Weekly Wage and the weekly benefits an injured worker is entitled to receive can involve complicated computations. Any injured worker with questions relating to the benefits they are receiving while they are undergoing medical treatment is strongly encouraged to contact one of our qualified attorneys to help them understand these complex questions, and make sure the worker is receiving all of the benefits to which they are entitled. Call (217) 394-5885 to schedule your free evaluation and consultation.