Massachusetts Appellate Court Discusses Average Weekly Wage Calculation in Work Injury Claim

Workers’ compensation claims can be confusing. There are many steps in the process and a variety of considerations that are taken into account before you are awarded weekly benefit payments. One of these considerations is how much your average weekly wage is, which is used to determine the amount of benefits that you will receive. There are a variety of ways that judges can calculate your average weekly wage and in some situations the judge may not take the right approach, resulting in lower benefit payments than you deserve. Our dedicated team of Boston work injury lawyers are ready to assist you with ensuring that you receive the appropriate treatment in the claims process.

In a recent claim, the appellate court was asked to consider whether the lower court calculated the injured employee’s average weekly wage correctly. The insurer appealed a determination from the lower court judge that the employee’s average weekly wage was $1,726.37 after the judge concluded that new evidence about the employee’s wages rendered a stipulation between the parties invalid. According to the insurer, the employee did not appeal from the conference order including this determination and did not file a request to submit a late appeal and the lower court also made an error regarding a determination that the employee suffered an injury to his right knee as a result of the accident.

First, regarding the knee injury, the judge concluded that the lower court made improper findings in its order based on the fact that the worker and the insurer had signed a stipulation stating that the only issue for consideration in the hearing involved the employee’s average weekly wage and that there were no medical issues in dispute.

Turning to the weekly wage argument, the appellate court disagreed with the lower court’s calculation and concluded that the average weekly wage should be set at $1490.33. The judge impermissibly vacated a stipulation between the employer and the insurer stating that the average weekly wage was $1,490.33, finding that the actual paychecks that the employee received were not available before this hearing and that this stipulated amount was merely an estimation. The appellate court also concluded that the judge wrongfully determined that the employee was entitled to a higher average weekly wage when it found that the insurer misclassified the employee as an independent contractor.

Although a judge can vacate a stipulation in some instances, the lower court did not have a basis to do so here under the guise of newly discovered evidence, meaning the paychecks. Evidence in the record showed that the employee likely could have obtained those checks before the original hearing and the record showed that he did not make an effort to obtain those checks at any point prior to the hearing.

If you were hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits as well as reimbursements for your medical expenses associated with the on-the-job injury. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and confused during this time, which is why the Boston work injury lawyers of Pulgini & Norton offer a free consultation to help you learn more about how our team of legal experts can help you. Call us today to schedule a free consultation at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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