How To Recover Lost Income After An Injury
After serious injuries, those involved in the accident usually have to miss time at work. Even if you have the most understanding employer, eventually, you're going to run out of whatever paid vacation time you have---if any---and you won't be able to work. Below, we'll talk about how the law can work to get that money back, and what you can expect.
First time here? Don't leave without checking out our popular Comprehensive Guide to Personal Injury Law for a full explanation of the legal landscape.
Questions answered on this page:
- Is there a limit to how much lost wages compensation you can sue for?
- How do you prove you sustained lost wages?
- How can an attorney help me recover the most compensation possible for my lost wages after an accident?
What the law means by "lost wages."
People get hired and lose jobs all the time---it's a part of our economy. Knowing this, we have unemployment insurance and (hopefully) savings in place to cover us when a job disappears. But as prudent as you may be, no one plans on getting seriously injured to the point that they cannot work anymore. That's why the law allows victims to sue the perpetrators of accidents for money directly lost as a result of the incident.
Your attorney's job begins by showing your lost wages were "proximately caused" by the accident. In other words, he must prove that but for the accident, you've made X dollars from your job. Here are some hypotheticals to explain what we're talking about:
- Bob, a previously-healthy construction worker, has a workplace injury because of his co-employee's negligence. Bob's doctors perform major surgery to repair his back and neck. They order him to 6 months of bed rest and rehab, with explicit instructions that he cannot work at all during that time. Here, the employer is plainly liable for whatever wages were lost during the 6 months he had to take off.
- Maggie was recently hired for a one-year project with a company. On her way home from work one day, a drunk driver causes an accident. Like Bob, she's ordered to not work for six months, but at the start of the seventh month, her doctor determines she can go back to work. Maggie decides to take a two-week vacation with her family before returning to work. Here, Maggie would only be entitled to the six months she had to take off because of the back injury.
- Tom works for an energy company in Houston. He slips and falls in a Wal-Mart because an employee negligently left a spill of cooking oil on an aisle floor. Two days later, while Tom is just starting his 6-month recovery, his employer files for bankruptcy and fires all of its employees. Tom's attorneys will need to be able to argue that Tom would have been able to secure a job soon after his company went bankrupt in order to recover for his full lost wages.
In the abstract, this is all premised on common sense. There must be a direct line between the money you would have made and the accident. Obviously, getting injured isn't a free pass to be lazy---but it also isn't a free pass for the person who hurt you not to have to pay for what they've done.
How to prove the wages you've lost.
In some cases, like Bob's, it can be relatively simple to prove lost wages. So long as the court and/or defendant believes Bob wasn't at fault and truly had to miss work, then it's simple math: Bob's weekly wages multiplied by the number of weeks he was out of work.
When measuring lost wages for a lawsuit, it is important to know the difference between the loss of "earning capacity" and "loss of earnings." Below is how the court distinguishes between the two:
- Loss of Earning Capacity - The loss of earning capactiy means the injured person has lost the ability to make a living for him or herself.
- Loss of Earnings - The loss of earnings equals the amount of money, or income, the injured person lost because his or her injury prevented the person from being about to work or perform a particular function.
However, like most things, it's rarely that simple. Usually, in addition to your testimony in your deposition, there will need to be experts to prove up your losses. These could be medical professionals who explain why you couldn't work, economists to graph out what someone with your (or your loved one's) level of education and experience would have made, and workplace specialists who can explain to a jury why your condition prevented you from taking any kind of job.
Over the years, our firm has brought to bear many expert witnesses to prove through scientific evidence the amount of money you should be entitled to. We've done this to great success.
The Personal Injury Attorneys at Grossman Law Offices Can Help With Your Case.
If you or a loved one has lost wages as a result of an accident, call our personal injury attorneys now at (855) 326-0000 for a free consultation. We can walk you through the process and answer any questions you might have. Call us now.
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