I Have A Workers’ Compensation Case – How Do I Know If My Disability Benefits Are Accurate?”

By Zachariah D. Hansen

California’s workers’ compensation system provides essential financial support to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. A pivotal part of this system is the calculation of temporary disability (TD) benefits, which is determined by California Labor Code Section 4453(c). TD benefits are wage-replacement benefits typically paid soon after a worker first gets hurt and has an accepted claim.

Section 4453(c)  outlines how TD benefits are calculated based on various scenarios related to the injured worker’s earnings and circumstances. This post will discuss the details of Section 4453(c), explaining how TD benefits are determined and applied in each subsection.

Overview of California Labor Code Section 4453(c)

Labor Code Section 4453(c) primarily focuses on determining the average weekly earnings (AWE) of injured workers, which is a key factor in calculating TD benefits. TD benefits are typically two-thirds of the AWE and are designed to partially compensate workers for the wages lost due to their inability to work temporarily. Section 4453(c) is divided into several subsections, each addressing different methods for calculating AWE based on the worker’s earnings and employment situation.

Scenario #1: Regular Weekly Earnings

Subsection 4453(c)(1) applies to employees who have a regular and consistent weekly income. It states: “Where the employment is for 30 or more hours a week and for five or more working days a week, the average weekly earnings shall be the number of working days a week times the daily earnings at the time of the injury.”

For workers with stable, weekly wages, calculating AWE is straightforward. The AWE is simply their regular weekly earnings. For instance, if an employee consistently earns $1500 per week, their AWE would be $1500. Consequently, their TD benefits would be two-thirds of this amount, equating to $1000 per week.

Scenario #2: Multiple Jobs/Concurrent Employment

Subsection 4453(c)(2 ) addresses employees who work multiple jobs concurrently. It states: “Where the employee is working for two or more employers at or about the time of the injury, the average weekly earnings shall be taken as the aggregate of these earnings from all employments computed in terms of one week; but the earnings from employments other than the employment in which the injury occurred shall not be taken at a higher rate than the hourly rate paid at the time of the injury.”

This ensures that workers with more than one job receive TD benefits based on their combined income. For example, if an employee earns $1000 per week from one job and $500 from another, their AWE would be $1000 + $500 = $1500. Their TD benefits would therefore be two-thirds of $1500, amounting to $1000 per week.

Scenario #3: Irregular Employment Patterns

Subsection 4453(c)(3) covers employees with irregular payrates, such as workers making commission income.

The section states: “If the earnings are at an irregular rate, such as piecework, or on a commission basis, or are specified to be by week, month, or other period, then the average weekly earnings…shall be taken as the actual weekly earnings averaged for this period of time, not exceeding one year, as may conveniently be taken to determine an average weekly rate of pay.”

This method accounts for employees whose work schedules are inconsistent. To determine the AWE, the total earnings over the period of work are divided by the number of weeks worked. For example, if an employee has earned $60,000 over a 40-week period, their AWE would be $50,000 ÷ 40 = $1250. Thus, their TD benefits would be two-thirds of $1250, which amounts to $833.33 per week.

Subsection #4: Special Circumstances

Subsection 4453(c)(4) provides flexibility for special cases where the previous methods may not be applicable.

It states: “Where the employment is for less than 30 hours per week, or where for any reason the foregoing methods of arriving at the average weekly earnings cannot reasonably and fairly be applied, the average weekly earnings shall be taken at 100 percent of the sum which reasonably represents the average weekly earning capacity of the injured employee at the time of his or her injury, due consideration being given to his or her actual earnings from all sources and employments.”

This catch-all provision allows for a more tailored calculation of AWE in unique situations, ensuring that the method used fairly represents the injured worker’s earning capacity. This might include cases where an employee’s earnings were temporarily lower due to a part-time job during a school-year or while training for a new career.


California Labor Code Section 4453(c) provides a comprehensive framework for calculating average weekly earnings, which determines the weekly rate of temporary disability benefits. By addressing various employment scenarios – regular, daily, irregular, seasonal, concurrent, or other circumstances – the section ensures that TD benefits fairly reflect the injured worker’s typical earnings. Understanding these nuances helps injured employees and employers navigate the workers’ compensation system more effectively, ensuring fair and adequate financial support during recovery periods.

If you or someone you know is navigating the workers’ compensation process, understanding Section 4453(c) is essential to ensuring accurate benefit calculations and adequate support during temporary disability. Always consult with a knowledgeable attorney or a workers’ compensation specialist to ensure your rights and benefits are fully protected.

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