HOW MUCH DO I GET PAID UNDER PENNSYLVANIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION?
Once you have suffered a work-related injury which disables you from your time-of-injury job, the employer must provide to the insurance carrier your wage records for the year preceding the injury. The insurance carrier is then required to determine your average weekly wage (AWW), which will form the basis of what you will be paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Significantly, you have to be disabled for at least 7 days before you are entitled to any workers’ compensation payments. Each day of disability after 7 days is payable; once you reach at least 14 days of disability, all days of disability going back to day one are payable. For example, if you are disabled for 8 days, you get paid for one; however, if you reach 14 days of disability, all 14 days and continuing are payable.
To calculate your average weekly wage, the carrier starts with the date of injury and goes back four 13 week periods and averages each period (this is one year or 52 weeks). The lowest 13 week period is then disregarded and the highest 3 week period averages are then added together and then divided by 3 to determine your average weekly wage. This method is designed to capture one’s true earning power reality, which catches periods of overtime and regular wages. So, depending on your date of injury, your average weekly wage can be affected in many ways, such as if you were injured right before a busy/overtime season or had just finished two overtime filled 13 week periods which would push your average weekly wage higher. Of note, your average weekly wage is frozen from the date of injury and going forward. This means, unfortunately, that wage increases you would normally receive at your job are not considered when determining your wage benefits going forward. Your average weekly wage for any disability from a work injury will never change. This can be detrimental to injured workers who have their average weekly wage frozen from a work injury years ago and do not get the benefit of union negotiated salary increases or cost of living raises.
After the average weekly wage is determined, the injured worker is entitled to compensation based on rates determined by the Pennsylvania Department and Industry. The amounts change from year to year, but for all injuries occurring in 2017 the weekly rates are as follows:
- Maximum Compensation Allowed: $995.00
- AWW between ($1,492.50 and $746.25): 66 2/3rds. of AWW
- AWW between ($746.25 and $552.78): flat rate of $497.50
- AWW below ($552.77): 90 percent of AWW
Significantly, workers’ compensation disability payments are non-taxable. Meaning, it is not taxed when paid and there is no 1099 form or need to declare any such payments on your annual taxes. It is not wages earned as far as the government is concerned—it’s the loss of one’s earning capacity. As you can see from the above, if your average weekly wage is anything above $1,492.50, a flat rate of $995.00 is payable. In contrast, if your average weekly wage is less than $552.77, then you would receive 90 percent of your AWW—without taxes taken out or owed.
If you have questions about your workers’ compensation rate, you should speak to an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyer.