Workers’ compensation is not an easy area of Minnesota law to understand. It is complex and detailed. You are not alone if you are feeling a bit lost in the workers’ compensation process. Clients usually come to us with a lot of questions about the basics of workman’s compensation and what they should expect. Because there is so much to learn with this area of law (and because it is always changing), it can be hard for employees to find the answers they are looking for.
Our Workers’ Compensation Basics series is written to help you get a better grasp of what workers’ compensation is and how it operates so you can more confidently make decisions about your case and know when you need to seek out an attorney. Read the previous entries in our work comp series:
- Work Comp Basics
- Wage Loss Benefits
- Work Comp Forms
- Employee Benefits
- Do I Need an Attorney?
- Work Comp Terminology
Why Am I Not Getting 100% of My Wages Replaced?
Under Minnesota’s workman’s compensation law, injured employees who receive wage replacement benefits do not get 100% of their income replaced. In other words, if you are receiving wage loss benefits and you were paid $12.00/hr on the job, your workers’ compensation will not pay the full amount.
Your benefit check will be 66 2/3% of your “average weekly wage.” There are two things about this an injured employee is likely to discover very quickly:
- Your average weekly wage is not necessarily what it sounds like (aka the wage you earn each week). Your average weekly wage (also known as “AWW”) is a technical calculation unique to workman’s compensation.
- You only get 66 2/3% of your income replaced by workers’ compensation.
Why is This?
First, the worker’s compensation AWW calculation is used to account for any variances in your work schedule, such as part time or seasonal work. This is especially important now that there are about 18.2% part-time workers. The AWW calculation also makes sure to properly account for any overtime.
Second, you get paid only 66 2/3% of your wages for a few reasons. Workman’s compensation is designed to get injured employees medical benefits and wage replacement as soon as possible. This means that traditional litigation, which may take years, is not a good fit. To create a system that worked quickly and efficiently, both employees and employers had to compromise. Getting paid less than you normally make is part of this.
Another reason is that your workers’ compensation benefits are not taxed. So, if you were making $12/hr before your work injury, that was not the amount you were bringing home after taxes. The idea is that employees should not make more money after getting hurt on the job than they were before. Some insurers also view the 66 2/3% rule as a way to motivate employees to return to work as soon as possible.
The good news for you if you are an injured worker is that the workman’s compensation system tries to work quickly. You may see a wage replacement check within a matter of a week or two after your workplace injury. When you are injured, that is exactly when you need the money. Not a year later.
What Can Workers’ Compensation Do For Me?
If you are an injured employee, I suggest you make a plan of action. First, arm yourself with knowledge. Second, communicate with your employer about your injury. Third, assess whether you will need a work comp lawyer.
A worker’s compensation attorney not only helps keep your employer and its insurer from dragging their feet, but he or she will take care of the paperwork and most communications on your behalf. Not all workers’ compensation claims will require the assistance of an attorney, but if you were injured on the job and do not have a workers’ compensation lawyer, make sure you are extra cautious and know your rights. Often, your claims adjuster will not tell you about all of the available benefits.
Our attorneys have extensive experience in handling workman’s compensation claims and are available to discuss your case. To speak with a Minneapolis attorney on the workers’ compensation team at Heimerl & Lammers, contact us at 612.294.2200.
[IMPORTANT NOTICE AND DISCLAIMER: Current as of 02/29/2016. Because workers’ compensation law changes frequently, please note that this information is only current as of the date listed here. This blog is not intended to be comprehensive. It is only for educational purposes and provides a very broad overview. It is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. By using this website, you agree to these terms. We highly suggest that any injured employee contact a licensed attorney in your state immediately for a thorough investigation into your personal situation.]