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Jonathan Rosenfeld

March 2, 2023

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Average Weekly Wage Workers' Compensation

According to the Worker’s Compensation Act, any employee harmed while performing their job is entitled to receive specific benefits up to two-thirds of their wages or salary. The act provides the minimum and maximum adjustments of the average weekly wage set by the Department of Labor.

Have you suffered injuries through a workplace accident or exposure to harmful workplace hazards? The Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, can help.

We can provide legal assistance in calculating the average weekly wage workers’ compensation in Illinois. Our extensive experience has helped many clients recover medical expenses, lost income, and other disability benefits throughout Illinois.

Contact us today at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free initial consultation. We are not paid until our lawyers successfully resolve your case. All information you share with our law firm remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

Defining Average Weekly Wage

The Worker’s Compensation program benefits are based on an Average Weekly Wage (AWW), calculated on the employee’s wages earned before the injury occurred. The Illinois Workers Compensation Act (Section 10) determines that the average is based on the previous fifty-two weeks before the injury date.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security publishes the bi-annual statewide Average Weekly Wage, setting the maximum and minimum benefit levels for everyone receiving Workers’ Compensation payments based on the number of weeks or the number of hours the employee worked before their illness or injury.

One method for calculating the Average Weekly Wage requires combining the 52 weeks of wages or the last four quarters reported to the Internal Revenue Service [1]. The total year-long wages divided by 52 weeks determine the actual earnings or the Average Weekly Wage.

However, the calculation is based on the employee working full-time, five days or more consecutively during the four quarters. Not meeting this requirement requires deducting the number of weeks the worker was not full-time and dividing the remaining total.

Some full-time workers harmed on the job had yet to reach their first anniversary. In these cases, the actual earnings are determined by dividing the number of weeks they earned wages.

Part-Time or Seasonal Work

The standard calculation for determining the Average Weekly Rate is based on full-time employment with the same employer. However, employees working part-time or seasonally, or intermittently must use a different method.

Calculating an Average Weekly Wage for an employee working part-time or intermittently is impracticable. The law allows calculating their Average Weekly Wage (AWW) based on another employee’s earnings who maintained the same position and worked an entire four quarters.

More Than One Job?

The Workers Compensation Law (Section 10) [2] allows the computation of an employee’s Average Weekly Wage based on total earnings from each employer when the accident happened. However, the worker is burdened with proving all their wages to ensure they receive the benefits program’s maximum compensation.

Any miscalculation in the compensation rate could easily shortchange the worker. Sometimes, the insurance company providing coverage to the employee will miscalculate the compensation rate, significantly reducing their weekly benefit payments.

What About Overtime?

According to Illinois Workers Compensation Act (Section 10), overtime pay is excluded when determining the Average Weekly Wage.

The law defines “Overtime” as any compensation earnings based on an hourly salary above what the worker routinely earns per week and any extra hourly pay above the regular hourly wage.

Calculating the Average Weekly Wage and Compensation Rate

The state of Illinois’ compensation rate is two-thirds (66 2/3%) of the employee’s average weekly wage. The rate is subject to the state’s minimum and maximum compensation rates based on the date the victim was harmed.

Any later change does not affect the rate, including the rate of inflation or maximum limits. By law, all personal injury claims, including Illinois Workers’ Compensation benefits, are not taxable. The benefits should include sufficient pay to cover missed hours, based on the average of the 52 weeks before the accident occurred.

Workers Compensation Commission

The Workers Compensation Commission sets regulations on how employers pay injured workers eligible for permanent partial disability (PPD) or permanent total disability (PTD) benefits, temporary partial disability (TPD), and temporary total disability (TTD).

These payments benefit the employee with a physical impairment, amputation, or disfigurement caused by their workplace-related accident.

Permanent Partial Disability Benefits

In Illinois, any worker suffering from a workplace-related accident or injury has the right to apply for permanent disability benefits. Partial disability payments are available for workers who have lost the use or partial use of an ear, eye, leg, or hand.

Additionally, disability benefits are available for the partial loss of the employee’s physical abilities if they can no longer do the same things they did before they were injured. However, the disability payments are not available until after the injured employee has healed.

During the approval process, a doctor must document that the employee reached their maximum medical improvement (MMI). This level identifies that the employee will not improve their condition beyond their current healing.

Next, the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC) [3] starts the assessed entitlement process to initiate permanent disability payments. The Commission uses four different calculations that identify eligibility for permanent disability payments.

These include:

  • Wage differential
  • Scheduled injury
  • Percentage of loss based on partial or whole damage, and
  • Disfigurement

Wage Differential

In some cases, the injured worker must change jobs when their work-related injury or illness caused physical impairments. Sometimes, their new occupation pays significantly less than their previous job before they were harmed.

The Commission regulates that the injured employee is entitled to receive their wage differential. Based on the calculation, the employee should receive two-thirds (66 2/3%) based on the difference between the old job’s actual earnings and the new job’s earnings.

The maximum level anyone may receive based on the state average weekly wage (SAWW) is $1080 (2018 figures). Injured employees are not allowed to collect the permanent disability payment AND the wage differential simultaneously.

Scheduled Injury

The state commission also uses 60% of the injured employee’s Average Weekly Wage for specific body injuries to determine their permanent partial disability payment.

These body parts include:

  • Arm amputated above the elbow
  • Arm amputated at the shoulder joint
  • Facial bone fracture
  • Finger
  • Foot
  • Hand
  • Leg amputated above the knee
  • Leg amputated at the hip joint
  • Loss of an eye
  • Loss of one or both testicles
  • Loss of vision in one eye
  • Occupational-disease-related hearing loss (one ear)
  • Skull fracture
  • Toes
  • Transverse process or spinal fracture
  • Trauma/accident-related hearing loss (one ear)
  • Vertebra fracture

Percentage of Loss

Percentage of loss is often referred to as a non-scheduled injury method based on the permanent body limitations caused by a job-related injury.

The Commission uses a method to evaluate the injured worker’s physical impairment and their inability to perform specific tasks based on pain, limited motion, skill, occupation, or age.

This method identifies the number of weeks the injured victim receives, based on 60% of their average weekly salary. The payment is usually available for up to 500 weeks.


Injured employees harmed in a workplace accident or exposed to harmful toxins/materials are entitled to receive disfigurement pay based on a severe permanent change to their parents. The weekly pay includes disfigurement of the chest, neck, head, face, lower legs, arms, or hands.

The pay includes disfigurement by cuts, burns, or surgical scars. Disfigurement payment is typically available for up to 162 weeks. Typically, victims with severe facial scars receive the total number of payments available.

The injured worker is only entitled to receive disability payments for a body part loss OR disfigurement compensation involving the same body part, but not both.

Permanent Total Disability

Employees suffering from a work-related illness or injury are entitled to receive permanent total disability (PTD) payments. These individuals can no longer return to work, and those whose injuries lead to the loss of using their hands, arms, feet, legs, or both eyes are entitled to receive permanent disability payments.

The Workers Compensation Commission requires permanent disability payments to workers who are permanently and wholly disabled. The maximum benefits are higher than usual and based on 133 1/3% of the SAWW (state average weekly wage) when the injury occurred.

In 2018, the maximum PTD payment reached $1440 per week.

Hiring an Illinois Workers Compensation Attorney to Maximize Benefits

Were you or a loved one injured in a workplace accident or exposed to hazardous materials/toxins on the job?

Contact the Workers’ Compensation injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC for legal advice on how to proceed.

You may be entitled to receive maximum compensation based on the number of hours you worked over the 52 weeks before your work-related injury or illness.

Our attorneys accept all disability benefits cases through contingency fee agreements. This arrangement ensures no fees are paid until we have successfully resolved the case.

Call us today at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free initial consultation. All information you share with our law office remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

Our legal team currently follows CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Covid-19 guidelines on social distancing to ensure everyone’s safety.

Resources: [1] IRS, [2], [3] IWCC

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