June 9, 2011
Jump in California Average Weekly Wage to Push 2012 Workers' Comp Benefits to Over $1,000/Week
New U.S. Department of Labor data shows California's State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) rose more than 2.4% from $979.90 to $1003.55 in the 12 months ending March 31, 2011, which the California Workers' Compensation Institute (CWCI) reports will push up minimum and maximum temporary total disability (TTD) rates for 2012 work injury claims, as well as other workers' compensation benefits that are tied to changes in the SAWW.
California's current TTD maximum rate for 2011 job injuries is $986.69 per week, but according to the CWCI, the latest increase in the SAWW means the TTD rate should rise to $1,010.50 per week for claims with injury dates on or after January 1, 2012. CWCI notes that the minimum weekly TTD rate also is subject to an annual adjustment based on increases in the SAWW, so the minimum rate ($148 for 2011 injury claims) should jump to $151.57 for 2012 work injury claims.
Effective next January, other workers' compensation benefits also will be bumped up by the recent increase in the SAWW, including TTD paid 2 years or more after injury, life pension and Permanent Total Disability payments for injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2003, and installment payments on death claims. Underpayment of benefits results in major penalties, so CWCI is encouraging claims administrators to review changes in benefit rates with legal counsel to assure that adjustments are appropriate and accurate. For reference, California's SAWW for the year ending March 31, 2010 is at http://ows.doleta.gov/unemploy/content/data_stats/datasum10/DataSum_2010_1.pdf and the SAWW for the year ending March 31, 2011 is at http://ows.doleta.gov/unemploy/content/data_stats/datasum11/DataSum_2011_1.pdf. A CWCI Bulletin with more details is available to Institute members and subscribers at www.cwci.org.