The Colorado Court of Appeals issued a decision today favorable to claimants. The Avalanche case involved calculating average weekly wage. Such a wage can often lead to increased temporary and permanent benefits. Traditionally such a wage is calculated as your pay rate at the time of injury. But this can be reassessed by the Administrative Law Judge. Here the person had a claim with one employer and it was closed out based on her wage at the time of injury. Then later on she sought to reopen the case because her condition had worsened. It was reopened and also the judge calculated her benefits on reopening at a higher wage calculation including adding for health insurance. In effect 5 years after the injury her wage calculations were made higher. In fact they were based on her pay rate with another employer and with the other employers health insurance. However unusual the principle is simple...a judge can determine your average weekly wage in any way that fairly compensates you. The employer asserted this was extremely unfair to them to be saddled with some new calculation years later but what we are really involved with is insurance and with claimants who could be trapped into low calculations despite the passage of many years or other valid considerations. After all we must remember that workers compensation should be keyed around fair compensation for injured workers. Someone not injured who kept working would have pay increases over the years...should the injured worker be stuck at low levels of pay? The court said there are situations where a judge has the discretion to adjust this. I applaud this decision for far too often benefits are limited and never consider the passage of time on pay rates. Yet in a job you are often paid higher wages over time. You can read the decision here:
UPDATE (August 2007) : This decision will be reviewed by the Colorado Supreme Court so any final outcome is pending. You can figure a decision will issue next year on this.