No amount of money will make you whole after a workplace injury. But money is the main tool we have to make sure you get compensated fairly if you are hurt at work. Below are the 3 key factors in a workers’ compensation case. These factors determine how much the employer and its insurance company may offer you to settle.
- Your Pre-Injury Average Weekly Wage (AWW)
Under workers’ compensation, you may be eligible for several types of benefits. The value of many of these benefits – temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability, and permanent and total disability – is determined by your pre-injury average weekly wage (AWW). This is the amount of money you earned while working for the employer during the 52 weeks before your injury.
It is in your best interest to make sure the AWW is as high as possible. Don’t let the employer choose this figure for you. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney who knows the different calculations that are permitted and who will work to increase the AWW used in your case.
- The Body Part Injured
You may be entitled to receive permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits if you suffer permanent loss of use, reduced functional ability, or scarring or disfigurement because of your work injury. But not every injury is eligible for PPD benefits under Virginia workers’ comp. Some body parts – including the back and neck – are not eligible for these benefits.
Another reason the body part injured matters in workers’ compensation is that not every injury is assigned the same value. For example, an injury to the arm is worth more than an injury to the leg – everything else kept equal. And an injury to the hand is worth more than an injury to the foot.
- Your Occupation Given Your Permanent Work Restrictions
At some point after your work injury you will reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Put loosely, MMI means that you are as good as you’re going to get, and that no further medical care, with the possible exception of pain management, will improve your functional ability. Your treating physician decides when you have reached MMI.
When you reach MMI, your treating physician will likely give you permanent work restrictions. These are restrictions that you will have for the rest of your career.
If you’re capable of performing your pre-injury work with these permanent restrictions, which is often the case with employees who have sedentary jobs, the value of your case will be limited. On the other hand, employees with more physically demanding jobs that they are not capable of performing within their permanent restrictions will likely receive higher settlement offers because they’ll never return to their pre-injury work.
The three factors above are a good starting point to determine the value of your case. But they are not the only important factors. Ultimately the value of your case will turn on these factors and many other variables.