Workers’ compensation payments can be a bit of a mystery: who sets the rates, how are they calculated, are there limits on the payments? If you have been injured in a workplace accident, you likely have many questions about the claims process and may be worried about having enough money to cover your financial needs until you can return to work. In this article, we provide an overview of how to calculate Virginia workers’ compensation payments, including your average weekly wage.
Virginia’s workers’ compensation benefits are established and regulated by the State and the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, which delegates authority and sets parameters for benefits. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission sets the maximum and minimum compensation rates each year as dictated by the Workers’ Comp Act.
The maximum amount of workers’ compensation an employee can receive is the lower of the following: (1) two-thirds of their pre-injury “average weekly wage,” or (2) the “maximum benefit” for the year they were injured.
The “maximum benefit” is the amount set by Virginia law. Effective July 1, 2019, the maximum compensation rate is $1,102 per week. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission publishes the rates, which can be found here.
Average Weekly Wage
The “average weekly wage” is critical to determining the value of your benefits. The higher your weekly wage, the greater the benefits you will receive. To calculate your average weekly wage, take the total earnings from the 52-week period before your accident (excluding weeks with no earnings) and divide the total earnings by the number of weeks.
There are a number of payments or benefits that should be included in your calculation: overtime pay, bonuses, cash tips (even if you did not pay taxes on them), commissions, payments for training or education, and fringe benefits (401K contributions, health insurance). It is easy to see how excluding these payments from your weekly wage can have a significant impact on your average. If you have questions about calculating your average weekly wage, contact an experienced Virginia Workers’ Compensation lawyer to walk you through the process.
After calculating your average weekly wage, you would be eligible for two-thirds of that wage (or the maximum rate, whichever is lower). For example, if your pre-injury average weekly wage was $900, then you are entitled to $600 in benefits, which is two-thirds of your average weekly wage. Workers’ Comp benefits are tax-free.
High wage earners are negatively impacted by the maximum benefit rate because if two-thirds of your average weekly wage exceeds the maximum benefit rate, you will receive the maximum rate and not two-thirds of your weekly wage.
The weekly minimum workers’ compensation payment rate chart is available here. The weekly minimum rate for 2019 is $275.50. If your average weekly earnings are under the minimum rate, then you are paid the full amount of your average weekly earnings by the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier.
Limitation on Duration of Payments
Except in cases of permanent and total incapacity, an employee can only receive workers’ compensation payments for 500 weeks.
Other Common Questions on Calculating Virginia Workers’ Comp Benefits
What is the waiting period for the payment of wage loss benefits?
Section 65.2-509 of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act sets the parameters for when an employee can start receiving wage loss benefits. The Act states that an injured employee will not receive compensation “for the first seven calendar days of incapacity resulting from an injury . . . but if incapacity extends beyond that period, compensation shall commence with the eighth day of disability. If, however, such incapacity shall continue for a period of more than three weeks, then compensation shall be allowed from the first day of such incapacity.” In other words, if you miss less than seven total days of work, you receive no wage loss benefits. If you miss eight to 21 days, you will not receive benefits for the first seven days and payments begin on day eight. If you miss more than 21 days, you receive wage loss benefits for every day you miss. Information on the types of benefits can be found here.
What if I have multiple jobs?
In Virginia, if an employee has more than one employer (i.e., has multiple jobs) and is injured at one workplace, the average weekly wage is calculated by combining the earnings of both jobs if the employments are related or similar. So, if your jobs are not similar, then you will not be able to combine the earnings when calculating your average weekly wage. Similar jobs tend to have similar responsibilities and are in similar industries. They may also require similar skills.
Virginia workers’ compensation benefits are paid by the employer’s workers’ comp insurance carrier unless the employer is self-insured.
Virginia’s workers’ comp process is nuanced and you do not need to struggle alone. If you have questions about your workers’ compensation claim or concerns about calculating your benefits, contact the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Renfro & Renfro. With years of experience representing parties on both sides of workers’ comp claims, we possess the knowledge and depth to predict and address any issue that may arise to ensure you receive the outcome you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.