You might know that workers’ compensation will cover the costs of necessary medical care after being in a workplace accident. But what you might not know is that workers’ comp can also replace some of the wages you lose because you cannot continue to work while recovering from your work-related injury. Wage replacement benefits are not available to every injured worker, though, so it helps to know more about them now, so you can anticipate if you’ll be able to get them when you need them.
Missing Wages & Average Paychecks
If you miss time from work because of a work-related accident, you are entitled to collect worker’s compensation benefits for your lost wages. State laws require employers to pay for at least a portion of an employee's missed wages while they are recovering from an injury. This is known as “time-loss compensation” or “temporary disability” payments. How your benefit amount is calculated depends on different factors, such as the average of what you were making prior to your accident. This is called your “average weekly wage.”
Your employers’ insurance carrier is typically responsible for sending your lost wages check. If the doctor overseeing treatment for your injury deems that you will be unable to return to work at all, you will get paid at what is known as the “temporary total disability” rate. Unless you qualify for catastrophic disability benefits, the pay rate will be 2/3 of your average weekly wage. Usually, when your doctor places work restrictions on you that your employer can’t meet, you get awarded “temporary partial disability benefits.” This kind of benefit pays out 64% of your average weekly wage and usually up to a maximum of 52 weeks.
Temporary benefits paid out by insurance carriers usually last until the following things occur:
- You reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) from your injury;
- You are able to make at least 80% of what you were making at the time of the accident; or
- Your workers' compensation doctor places you on full duty
After your temporary benefits end, you are unlikely to receive any further monetary compensation for your lost wages. However, there might be some exceptions based on the unique details of your case. Speaking with an experienced workers’ comp attorney is always recommended to get the most accurate information about your situation and what to do next.
What Happens to Lost Overtime?
Do you depend on making overtime pay each week to make ends meet? A workplace injury could mean losing your access to overtime pay because working longer-than-normal hours will be more difficult than ever before. Your doctor’s orders might even specifically say that you should not work overtime when you are able to return to work in the same or a lighter capacity.
Collecting wage benefits for lost overtime is tricky, though. Your workers’ compensation claim will only consider your average wages based on your usual hourly or salary rate and the number of hours you work each week before factoring overtime. In some circumstances, overtime pay can be factored into workers’ comp wage replacement benefits if the claimant was expected and scheduled to work overtime on a regular basis.
Consider these two examples of lost overtime wages:
- Expected overtime: Your work schedule is 50 hours with the expectation that you will work 2 hours of overtime each day. In this situation, you could probably receive some lost overtime through your temporary disability benefits because overtime is an integral and expected part of your schedules and paychecks.
- Voluntary overtime: You work only a few hours of overtime each week and you do so because you ask your boss for overtime approval, not because it was scheduled or expected. In this example, you likely cannot get overtime pay because it was usually an add-on that you accepted voluntarily.
In California, unpaid overtime claims are separate from workers’ compensation claims, so you shouldn’t expect to get back unearned or lost overtime just because your temporary total or partial disability benefits were approved. If you want to get unpaid overtime that has not been provided through other means, and you think there has been some sort of payroll or legal issue that got in the way of your fair wages, then you should speak with a workers’ compensation attorney about your options. You might need to go to the California Labor Board or Labor Commissioner’s Office with an unpaid overtime claim.
Choose an Attorney Who Cares About Your Future
Do you have more questions about obtaining workers’ comp benefits to cover your lost wages? We can help. At the Law Offices of Wax & Wax, we have over 100 + years of combined legal experience. Our team of lawyers is familiar with workers’ comp cases and we are prepared to fight for your right to secure the compensation that you deserve. Let us put our skills to work for you today.
Contact our Glendale workers’ compensation attorneys to get started on your case today.