The first and often the most important category of benefits available in Workers' Compensation claims - especially when evaluating exposures for settlement - is the category of Temporary Total Disability benefits (frequently abbreviated as "TTD benefits.") This is the weekly check for indemnity benefits that the Employee/Claimant receives as long as she remains disabled from work due to the injury, and it is frequently the only income an injured worker has during her period of recovery and treatment for the work injury. This category of benefits is created by Section 261 of the Workers' Compensation Act, which provides as follows:
While the disability to work resulting from an injury is temporarily total, the employer shall pay or cause to be paid to the employee a weekly benefit equal to two-thirds of the employee's average weekly wage but not more than $500.00 per week nor less than $50.00 per week, except that when the weekly wage is below $50.00, the employer shall pay a weekly benefit equal to the average weekly wage. The weekly benefit under this Code section shall be payable for a maximum period of 400 weeks from the date of injury; provided, however, that in the event of a catastrophic injury as defined in subsection (g) of Code Section 34-9-200.1, the weekly benefit under this Code section shall be paid until such time as the employee undergoes a change in condition for the better as provided in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of Code Section 34-9-104.
This weekly TTD check is vital to the Workers' Compensation client who is trying to support herself and possibly her family while recuperating and unable to work. For the practitioner, the weekly TTD check is the subject of the most frequent type of call received from the Workers' Compensation client; ergo, "my check didn't come this week."
There are several important points to observe about TTD benefits for our purposes here. First, TTD benefits are payable in the amount of only two-thirds of the Employee/Claimant's average weekly wage as of the date of injury, not for ALL of the wage loss experienced while the client is not working. TTD benefits in Workers' Compensation are not intended to make the client whole, but merely to give her some money to live on while recovering.
Second, the average weekly wage that is the basis for the calculation is generally calculated by taking the average weekly wage received over the thirteen week period of employment leading up to the date of injury, as long as the Employee/Claimant worked for the Employer for "substantially the whole" of that thirteen week period. There are other methods provided by the statute and Board Rule for calculating the average weekly wage if this method is not feasible. Also, it is worthy of note that other monies or benefits paid to the Employee/Claimant besides wages can be included in the calculation of the average weekly wage. See O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-260 and Board Rule 260 for details and other methods of calculating average weekly wage.
Once the average weekly wage is determined, the two-thirds figure that is payable as TTD benefits becomes the all-important "comp rate." This is the amount of the Employee/Claimant's weekly indemnity benefit check, and the comp rate is important in other respects, as well.
If you are wondering what your Temporary Total Disability benefits will cover or how much you will receive, then speak with an Atlanta workers' compensation attorney from Douglas F. Kaleita, P.C. Call us today at (888) 665-7699.
Read part two of this blog.