North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court’s Calculation of Injured Nurse’s Average Weekly Wages

An important step in any workers’ compensation claim is ensuring that the judge makes an appropriate calculation regarding the average weekly wages that you earned prior to the accident. This figure will be used to determine the amount of benefits that you are entitled to receive. The seasoned team of Raleigh work injury lawyers at Maurer Law have guided numerous injured employees through this process while helping them ensure that they are treated fairly.

A recent claim from the North Carolina Court of Appeal discusses average weekly wage calculations. The employer’s workers’ compensation insurer appealed from a decision awarding an injured certified nursing assistant benefits. The insurer challenged the lower court’s calculation of the nurse’s average weekly wages according to one of the many methods listed in North Carolina’s workers’ compensation statutes. According to the insurer, the lower court gave too much credence to the worker’s earnings following the injury and that the figure it chose was not a close approximation of the amount she would have earned had she not been injured.

The appellate court began by reviewing the state’s standard for calculating average weekly wages, which is covered in N.C. Gen. Stat. Section 97-2(5). It sets forth five ways that a court can make this calculation. The methods are listed in the priority that they should be used. Overall, the legislature intended for the court to make the calculation fair and just to the employer and the employee. This has been interpreted to mean that the average weekly wages should be as close as possible to the amount that the employee would have been earning had he or she not suffered an injury on the job.

Here, the lower court used the fifth method to calculate weekly wages for the injured nurse. Under this method, the court must conclude that there are exceptional reasons that using one of the other four methods would be unfair to the worker or the employer, or that another method would result in a closer approximation of what the employee would have earned had he or she not been injured.

The lower court divided the worker’s gross wages by the total number of days that she worked, which the appellate court deemed as fair. This included wages she earned while working part-time, full-time and at two different hourly rates. The lower court also only divided these earnings by the actual number of days that the employee worked. By doing so, the lower court properly accounted for both peak periods and slack periods in her work pattern.

If you were hurt at work, we are ready to help you fight for your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Understanding this process and knowing whether you are getting the results that you deserve can be challenging and seemingly impossible, especially if your injuries are severe. We offer injured workers a free and confidential consultation to learn more about our legal team and how we can help you. Call us today at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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