Augusta, ME ( -- One of the many numbers that is important in the world of workers' compensation is an injured worker's "average weekly wage." That's why it's no surprise that states make sure to define the term under state law.

One of those states is Maine, which defines "average weekly wages" or "average weekly wages, earnings or salary" as follows.

"Average weekly wages, earnings or salary" of an injured employee means:

  • The amount that the employee was receiving at the time of the injury for the hours and days constituting a regular full working week in the employment or occupation in which the employee was engaged when injured
  • This does not include any reasonable and customary allowance given to the employee by the employer for the purchase, maintenance or use of any chainsaws or skidders used in the employee's occupation if that employment or occupation had continued on the part of the employer for at least 200 full working days during the year immediately preceding that injury.
  • "Reasonable and customary allowance" is the allowance provided in a negotiated contract between the employee and the employer or, if not provided for by a negotiated contract, an allowance determined by the Department of Labor.
  • When the employment or occupation did not continue for 200 full working days, "average weekly wages, earnings or salary" is determined by dividing the entire amount of wages or salary earned by the injured employee during the immediately preceding year by the total number of weeks, any part of which the employee worked during the same period. 
  • The week in which employment began, if it began during the year immediately preceding the injury, and the week in which the injury occurred, together with the amounts earned in those weeks, may not be considered in computations.

Notable Case

In Nielsen v. Burnham & Morrill, Inc., 600 A.2d 1111 (Me. 1991), the state's highest court explained that AWW includes vacation pay in the total amount of compensation and vacation weeks in the total number of weeks worked. Why was that? In the court's eyes, the word "worked" meant "employed," and the purpose of calculating AWW was to arrive at an estimate of the employee's future earning capacity as fairly as possible. In contrast, interpreting AWW to exclude vacation time and pay would result in an artificially inflated AWW. In the Nielsen case, that would have resulted in the worker's AWW being greater than what he would have earned had he not been injured.

If you need compliance info, you need to check out WorkCompResearch

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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