LOUISIANA WORKERS COMPENSATION BENEFITS
The Louisiana Workers'
Compensation Act provides four types of income benefits
for people who have a work-related injury or illness:
You can receive only one type of benefit at a time,
but you may qualify for different types of benefits at different
points in your claim.
DETERMINING YOUR "AVERAGE
You'll need to know your
"average weekly wage" before you can determine
how much your
Louisiana Workers Compensation income benefits should be. For
most people, their average weekly wage equals their average
gross wages during the four full weeks before their
accident. But the basic
calculation is subject to many adjustments and variations.
You will usually need to answer at least two questions to determine your "average weekly wage":
- How much were your "gross wages?"
- Which weeks were the "four full weeks before
"Gross Wages" means the total amount of your pay,
before deductions for taxes, social security, retirement
plans, health insurance, etc. "Gross Wages" may also include
taxable fringe benefits, such as the payment of some
business expenses. If you're supposed to pay income taxes on
it, or if it comes out of your income and goes into a pre-tax retirement account such as
a 401(K), it should be counted as "Gross Wages" under
Louisiana Workers Compensation law.
"Four Full Weeks Before Your Accident": Your average weekly
wage is usually based upon your gross income in the "four
full weeks" before your accident. If you were a
full-time employee and usually worked at least 40 hours
per week, the calculation may need to be adjusted if any of
the following things happened in the four weeks immediately before your accident:
- You had a full or partial vacation week.
- You worked less than 40 hours during a week due to
- You were laid off for part or all of a week.
- Your employer required you to
work a reduced schedule.
If any of the items listed
above affected your work schedule during the four weeks
before your accident, the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act
says you should be credited with a full 40-hours of
income for that week when calculating your average weekly
wage. While the
Courts generally follow this rule, some Courts
have instead excluded those weeks from the calculation. Excluding
those weeks from the calculation can result in a very
different "average weekly wage" calculation for
your claim. This can result in very
different benefit rates and a different settlement amount at
the end of your
In most claims, you should not count
the week in which the
accident happened when calculating your average weekly wage
because that week is usually not a "full week."
Unfortunately, Louisiana Workers Compensation insurance
companies often make this mistake. Including the week of the
accident in the calculation usually results in a lower
benefit rate, so it's important to verify that your average
weekly wage was calculated correctly.
If you had more than one
job at the time of your injury, your
Louisiana Workers Compensation benefits are the
responsibility of the employer you were working for at the
time your injury happened. If your injury causes you to lose
income from both jobs, your average weekly wage should be
based upon your income from both jobs.
But the law contains an
unfortunate surprise. If you were working two jobs at the
time of your injury, your average weekly wage equals (1) the
hourly rate you earned at the job in which you were injured,
multiplied by (2) the total hours you worked each week in
both jobs, or 40 hours per week, "whichever is less." Thus,
if you were working in two jobs at the time of your injury,
your average weekly wage is not necessarily based upon the
higher paying job and it's only going to include a maximum
of 40 hours per week. If you fall within this category, you
should talk to a lawyer to see what your options are. You
should also call your Louisiana State
Senator and ask why the law penalizes people who work
hard and have two jobs.
If you have a work-related illness (rather than an "injury"), the
date of your "accident" is considered to be either the last
day you worked for the employer, or the last date upon which
you had a harmful exposure to the condition in your
employment that cased your illness, whichever is later. You
would then calculate your average weekly wage using that
date as your "accident date."
Injured employees and
insurance companies often disagree about the amount of the
injured employee's average weekly wage. It's very common
for the insurance company to want to delay paying benefits
until they receive written verification of your wages from
your employer. One of the most useful things you can do to
Louisiana Workmens Compensation benefits started on time is to provide your
attorney with copies of your check stubs showing your income
for the weeks just before your disability began.
Even if you don't have
check stubs, the insurance company is usually required to
Louisiana Workmans Compensation benefits within fourteen days of the date your
employer learns of your injury. It's important to try to
fill out a written accident report so you will have evidence
that shows when your employer learned about your injury.
Next: Temporary Total Disability Benefits (TTD)