Compensation benefits in an Arizona workers compensation claim are based on the injured worker’s “average monthly wage at the time of injury” (A.R.S., §23-1041(A)). This means that every penny of compensation you will receive is based on the Industrial Commission’s determination of your wage at the time you get hurt. Just how to determine the “average monthly wage” is the subject of much debate and litigation in workers compensation claims. Is it what the employee earned in the 30 days prior to the accident? In the year prior? What if they were injured in their first day on the job? What if the month prior to the accident the injured worker took two weeks off for vacation – or if work was very slow because of bad weather? What if you got a raise a month before your injury? These are all issues that arise in determining average monthly wage.
It is generally recognized that the “thirty days prior to the injury” is the presumptive time period to determine the average monthly wage. However, if the employee’s earnings in the thirty days preceeding his accident “fail to provide an accurate measure” of his pre-injury earning capacity, an “expanded wage base” can be used. This can be done in several ways, including taking the year to date earnings, or an average of earnings over the previous year. Expanded wage bases are used when the earnings during the 30 days prior aren’t really reflective of the average earnings of the worker, for example in cases where work was inordinately busy or slow during the month before the accident. If the employee worked for the company less than thirty days, the Commission can use the wages of other employees of the company doing the same job to determine what the employee would have earned during that period.
There are many other variations in this complex area of Arizona Workers’ Compensation Law, including seasonal employment, a recent wage increase, intermittent work, additional compensation for room and board or other benefits, and many more. It is important to note that the Industrial Commission usually sets the Average Monthly Wage within a month or two of an on-the-job injury, and if the wage is not correct, the injured worker only has 90 days within which to appeal. If you have any questions about whether or not your wage is set correctly, you should contact the Arizona Work Injury Attorneys at Snow & Carpio. The consultation is always free, and could mean the difference in tens of thousands of dollars in compensation in your claim.
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