INTRODUCTION TO OKLAHOMA WORK COMP AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGE (AWW)In Oklahoma, an injured worker’s AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGE, or “AWW” is the linchpin upon which the amount of all his or her workers’ compensation indemnity benefits or even his or her final cash settlement are made. In other words, the weekly and total overall amount of Permanent Partial Disability benefits (“PPD”), Temporary Total Disability benefits (“TTD”), Temporary Partial Disability benefits (“TPD”), Permanent Total Disability benefits (“PTD”) and even Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits are wholly dependent upon a proper determination of the injured &/or deceased worker’s Average Weekly Wage by either the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers Comp Court. The only major monetary benefits payable under Oklahoma Workers Compensation Law which are NOT dependent upon an injured worker’s average weekly wage are disfigurement and mileage and other reimbursement benefits demanded by the injured employee &/or his or her attorneys or lawyers.
To be clear–an injured Oklahoma City or Tulsa area employee’s work comp cash settlement will increase or decrease in direct proportion to his or her average weekly wage calculation. As such it is absolutely imperative that an injured worker &/or his or her attorney or lawyer carefully consider and calculate the worker’s maximum average weekly wage. In spite of your employer’s ad hoc calculation of your AWW THE ASH LAW FIRM can properly determine this value thereby increasing both the monetary amount of your weekly check and the overall cash value of your workers’ compensation settlement.
CALCULATION: OKLAHOMA WORKER’S COMP AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGE ‘AWW’Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workers’ Comp Court rules specifically provide that the average weekly wages* of the injured employee at the time of his or her injury will be the basis upon which to compute his or her workers’ compensation benefits. An injured Oklahoma employee’s average weekly wage is calculated by employers, insurance companies, injured workers, attorneys & lawyers as follows:
- If the injured Oklahoma City or Tulsa area employee worked in the employment in which he or she was working at the time of the accident whether for the same employer or not, during substantially the whole of the year immediately preceding his or her injury, his or her average annual earnings consist of two hundred sixty (260) times the average daily wage or salary which he or she earned in such employment during the days when so employed.
- If the injured Oklahoma City or Tulsa area employee did not work in the employment in which he or she was working at the time of the accident whether for the same employer or not during substantially the whole of such year immediately preceding his or her injury, his or her average annual earnings consist of two hundred sixty (260) times the average daily wage or salary which an employee or worker of the same class working substantially the whole of such immediately preceding year in the same or in a similar employment in the same or a neighboring place earned in such employment during the days when so employed.
- If either of the foregoing methods of arriving at the annual average earnings of an injured Oklahoma City or Tulsa area employee cannot reasonably and fairly be applied by either the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers’ Comp Court, such annual earnings will be such sum as, having regard to the previous earnings of the injured worker and of other employees of the same or most similar class, working in the same or most similar employment in the same or neighboring locality, will reasonably represent the annual earning capacity of the injured working in the employment in which he or she was working at the time of the accident–all as documented by the injured worker &/or his attorneys or lawyers.
- The average weekly wages of an injured Oklahoma employee should be computed by attorneys, lawyers, employers, insurance companies & the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers Compensation Court at one fifty-second (1/52) part of the injured worker’s average annual earnings.
- The benefit level for members of the Oklahoma National Guard and any authorized voluntary or uncompensated worker rendering services as a volunteer fire fighter, peace officer or civil defense worker are determined by Oklahoma attorneys, lawyers, employers & the Tulsa Workers Compensation Court by using the earnings of the individual in the individual’s regular occupation.
- If it be established that the injured Oklahoma City or Tulsa area worker was a minor when injured, and that under normal conditions his or her wages would be expected to increase, that fact may be presented by the injured worker &/or his or her attorney or lawyer and considered by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court in arriving at the injured minor employee’s average weekly wage. However, unforturnately the Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workmens Comp Courts have strictly construed this statute to prevent its use after and upon an injured minor celebrating his eighteenth birthday, even if he or she is in high school or college at the time he or she is injured.
*NOTE: The Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workers Compensation Court has defined the term “wages” to mean the money rate at which the service rendered by the injured worker is recompensed by his or her employer under the contract of hiring in force at the time of the injury, including the reasonable value of board, rent, housing, lodging, or similar advantage received by the injured employee from his or her employer. Considering this the injured worker &/or his or her attorneys or lawyers should produce this information to the insurance company and demand that it be incorporated into his or her average weekly wage calculations.
DETERMINING INJURED OKLAHOMA WORKER’S WEEKLY BENEFIT ’RATE’Weekly benefits of an injured Oklahoma worker are not actually paid by the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers’ Comp Court at his or her average weekly wage, but at his or her ‘rate’, which is seventy percent (70%) of his or her Average Weekly Wage, up to a maximum weekly rate beyond which weekly benefits will NOT be paid. Currently the maximum rate at which Temporary Total Disability benefits, Permanent Total Disability benefits and Death benefits can be paid is $801. The maximum rate or amount at which Permanent Partial disability benefits currently are paid is $323.
Not suprising employers and their work comp insurance companies, attorneys & lawyers constantly understate and compute their injured Oklahoma City & Tulsa area worker’s average weekly wage for workers compensation rate purposes. For instance–employers WILL recognize that his or her injured worker is working part-time at less than a full-time forty (40) hour week when computing his or her workers comp average weekly wage, but conveniently forget to acknowledge a employee’s working overtime for good reason. Take the following example:
An employer computes its $10 an hour injured employee’s work comp average weekly wage and shorts him and her only one hour per week, or only $7 a week on his permanent partial disability rate. On a 500 week permanent partial disability award this would reduce the injured worker’s award by $3,500 [1 hour x $10 hour x 70% rate x 500 weeks]. An injured worker adjudged to be permanently and totally disabled by the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workmans Compensation Court with a thirty-five (35) year live expectany experiencing the same shortage on his rate would lose $12,740 over the course of his lifetime in reduced PTD benefits.
Based upon the foregoing it is obvious that an injured Oklahoma City or Tulsa area worker &/or his or her workers’ compensation attorney or lawyer should formally request a copy of his or her payroll history for the fifty-two week period immediately preceding his or her injury (or a similar employee’s 52 week history if the injured employee has not worked on the job where injured for a year predating his or her injury) and properly compute his or her Average Weekly Wage and in turn his or her benefit rate. Please contact THE ASH LAW FIRM for a no-obligation, free in-office or telephone consultation and review of your workers’ compensation case if you should have any question regarding your or another’s AVERAGE WEEKLY WAGE &/or benefit rate. One of our attorneys or lawyers would be happy to help answer this or any other question you may have regarding your workers’ comp or on-the-job injury case.
In addition to on-the-job accidents & work related injuries THE ASH LAW FIRM attorneys handle workers’ compensation cases of all kinds, and serve the entire state of Oklahoma including the following areas: Adair, Arkoma, Bartlesville, Beggs, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Catoosa, Claremore, Coweta, Cushing, Drumright, Eufaula, Glenpool, Henryetta, Jay, Jenks, Ketchum, Langley, Locust Grove, McAlester, Miami, Morris, Mounds, Muskogee, Nowata, Okmulgee, Owasso, Pawnee, Poteau, Pryor, Sallisaw, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Shawnee, Skiatook, Sperry, Stillwater, Tahlequah, Tulsa, Vinita and Wagoner.