Fringe benefits. They are often ignored in workers’ comp claims. Yet, they should not be.
Employee benefits may be an important part of your compensation. Consider health insurance. It’s not the only fringe benefit offered by some employers but it is probably the most important (and costly) one. Health insurance premiums are high. Very high. Some people stay at jobs just for the health insurance. Many people would be uninsured if not for employer-based plans.
How can fringe benefits impact a work-related injury or workers’ compensation claim? Fringe benefits can impact an Alabama work-related injury in two significant ways.
Fringe Benefits May Be Includable In the Average Weekly Wage Upon Which Your Benefits Are Calculated
In Alabama, work comp benefits are determined based on mathematical formulas. Your Average Weekly Wage (AWW) play a key factor in those formulas. A higher AWW usually means higher work comp benefits. For some people, calculating AWW is pretty straightforward. For others, it gets a little more complicated. But, that’s a topic for another day.
The cost of fringe benefits provided by an employer may be a huge part of your overall compensation. If so, that cost may be includable in your AWW. When are fringe benefits includable in my AWW? That’s an important question in many comp cases. If you have questions about the issue, I’m happy to answer them.
Fringe Benefits May Lapse During Your Temporary Disability While Healing
This is a huge (and unjust) issue for many injured Alabama workers. You suffer a bad injury. You cannot return to work for a period of time. You are out of work, sitting at him and trying to heal. You may be receiving some temporary work comp benefits (referred to as temporary total disability or TTD benefits) while off work. It’s not your full pay. But, it’s part. Most people assume they will heal, return to work and go right back to their normal job.
Suddenly, you receive a phone call or letter from your employer. Your health insurance is about to lapse. What? This comes out of left field to you. Here’s what likely happened. Your employer provided health insurance benefits. The cost of those benefits was paid by your employer in whole or part. You are off work and not receiving a regular paycheck. So, your employer cannot deduct your portion from your paycheck. In other words, your employer is not going to pay your portion of the cost. When your portion goes unpaid, the company is going to contact you. If you cannot pay your portion (and you probably cannot pay while off work receiving only comp benefits), then the insurance will likely lapse.
This is a huge issue. We have heard so many client stories about lost benefits following an injury. The sudden and unexpected loss of fringe benefits like health insurance can throw an entire family into chaos. I have no good answer for the problem. It is a failure of the law. The Alabama Legislature needs to address this situation on behalf of working families.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we represent injured workers across northern Alabama. We understand the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. In many ways, Alabama law treats injured workers unjustly. Because of that, it is so important that people with serious disabilities fight for all the benefits available.