Massachusetts Appellate Court Issues Opinion Discussing Proper Rules for Calculating an Injured Worker’s Average Weekly Wages

If you are hurt at work, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, which provides injured employees with compensation for their lost wages and reasonable medical expenses. The claim process can be complex, especially if the insurer denies the claim or challenges certain decisions like the calculation of the weekly benefits that you are owed. As experienced Boston workers’ compensation lawyers, we are standing by to help you understand the claim process and to ensure that you are treated fairly by insurance companies and the Department of Industrial Relations.

In a recent claim, a worker suffered an injury to his back while working in a warehouse. He missed a few days of work after reporting to the emergency room and eventually resumed light duty work and continued to work for eleven months following the injury. During this time, he underwent continued medical treatment consisting of MRIs, physical therapy, and steroid injections. His manager eventually informed him that he was being put on disability effective the next Monday.

The man filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The judge ordered the employer to pay him temporary total incapacity benefits from the day the employer noted he was on disability and the insurer appealed. The employee underwent an independent medical examination and the reporting doctor indicated that the man had several work-related limitations, including only lifting no more than 10 pounds on an occasional basis. The judge concluded that this rendered him incapable of performing jobs that matched his skillsets, including his former job.

The judge calculated the man’s average weekly wages based on his projected future income when he stopped working as opposed to the average weekly wage he earned over the previous 52-week period. The judge also included the hourly 2% wage increase that the employer enacted one month before the man ceased working in the calculation. The insurer appealed this on the basis that the judge erred by failing to use the average weekly wage for the prior 52-week period and that none of the wage enhancement provisions in Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws applied to his claim.

The appellate court agreed with the insurer, finding that Massachusetts law clearly requires an average weekly wage to be calculated based on the worker’s weekly average over the proceeding 52-week period immediately preceding the date of the accident. Although there are alternative methods for calculating average weekly wages, the statutes indicate that these methods are only available where the employee has not been working for the employer for a lengthy period of time, or where the nature of the worker’s employment makes an average weekly wage incalculable. The appellate court vacated the order and remanded the matter for a new average weekly wage calculation.

Work-related injuries can be incredibly stressful and disruptive for you and your family. Having provided assistance to Massachusetts residents in a wide range of claims, we understand how important it is for you to obtain an efficient and timely result. Our seasoned team of Boston work injury lawyers offers a free consultation so you can learn more about the claims process and how we can assist you in asserting your rights. Call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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