Can you recover lost wages when your injuries cause you to miss work after an auto accident?
There are many types of damages that you can recover after a car crash that is caused by another driver, including financial, mental, and physical losses. One of these categories of damages is lost wages or loss of future earning capacity.
In this article, we will go over the basics of recovering lost wages and loss of future income in a SC personal injury case, including:
- When you can recover lost wages after an auto accident,
- How to prove lost wages in your personal injury case, and
- When you can recover for loss of future income after an accident.
When Can You Recover Lost Wages in a Personal Injury Case?
One element of damages that the other driver’s insurance company probably will not tell you about is lost wages and loss of future earning potential – if you have missed work or if your injuries have reduced your earning potential, the at-fault driver is responsible for compensating you.
How Long Did Your Injuries Prevent You from Returning to Work?
If you spent time in the hospital after a car crash or if you were unable to work because of your injuries, you are entitled to recover the amount of money you would have received in wages but for the accident.
How to Prove Lost Wages
It’s not enough to just tell an insurance adjuster or a jury how much time you missed from your job and what your pay would have been – you will need to document your lost wages and your documentation will need to be consistent with your medical records showing that you were unable to work.
Although every case is different, you may need to provide evidence including:
- Doctor’s notes stating when you were unable to work and when you were cleared to return to work,
- Affidavits or testimony from your employer,
- Documentation from your employer that shows the dates you missed work, the hours that you were scheduled to work, what your pay would have been, and lost benefits, and
- Financial statements, financial reports, and IRS tax returns.
Depending on the facts of your case, you may need expert testimony to prove your lost income, including:
- Medical testimony about the extent of your injuries and their effect on your ability to work,
- Economists, and
- Vocational rehabilitation experts.
Types of Lost Income
Lost wages doesn’t just mean the dollar value of paychecks that you missed. Depending on the facts of your case, it could also mean:
- Lost bonuses,
- Sick pay,
- Vacation pay,
- Other benefits missed due to your injuries, and
- Missed promotions.
Psychological/ Emotional Injuries
What if you are physically able to work but you suffered emotional trauma that is now preventing you from working?
If your psychiatrist or other mental health expert establishes that a mental or emotional injury like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by the accident prevents you from working, you are entitled to lost wages.
Loss of Future Income/ Loss of Earning Potential
If your injuries prevent you from working for a period of time, you are entitled to lost wages for the time that you missed work.
If your injuries prevent you from returning to work in the future, then you are also entitled to loss of future income or the loss of earning potential caused by the accident. As with past lost wages, proving loss of future income may require expert testimony.
Total Disability or Partial Disability?
How long will your disability cause you to miss work?
Depending on the nature of your injury and the experts’ testimony, you may be entitled to:
- The full value of your future wages, reduced to present value but including promotions and pay increases, or
- A portion of the value of your future wages based on the degree to which your disability will prevent you from working – if you can’t do the job you were doing pre-accident, is there any gainful employment that you can do, and what is the difference in your income?
You may be able to recover the value of lost opportunities as well as lost wages – for example, what if you missed a sales opportunity due to your injuries or you missed a meeting that would have generated additional income? What if a new employer offered you a job at a higher salary but withdrew the offer after you were injured?
You can recover for lost opportunities, but it cannot be speculative – you must be able to prove that it is more likely than not that you would have received the additional income.
To recover loss of future income for a permanent disability caused by the accident, you will need to provide evidence of how long you could reasonably have expected to continue working – the typical retirement age for a person in your situation and field of employment.
An economist must provide a calculation for the “present value” of the future income stream that you lost due to the accident – the sum of money that, if prudently invested today, would replace the future stream of income through retirement age.
The present value of a future income stream may be discounted to account for the interest that you would receive over time if you invested the total amount, but it also should be increased to account for the raises and promotions you would have received throughout your career.
Your Myrtle Beach auto accident attorney at Axelrod and Associates will investigate your case, gather the evidence that you need to prove liability and damages – including lost income – and work to get you the maximum compensation you are entitled to under the facts of your case and SC law.
Schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer on the Axelrod team today. Call us at 843-353-3449 or fill out our contact form to set up a free initial consultation about your case.