WHAT ARE LOST WAGES?
Lost wages refer to money, income, and benefits that you are unable to earn after a car accident. Examples of lost wages include:
- Hourly wages
- Vacation days, sick days, and other PTO
- Retirement benefits (including employer contributions)
- Health benefits
- Stock options
If you can prove that you would have earned compensation through work if you hadn’t been injured in a car accident, you can receive compensation for it.
WILL CAR INSURANCE COVER LOST WAGES?
In Missouri, insurance is the first and primary source of compensation after a car accident. All drivers in the state are legally required to purchase a policy that satisfies Missouri state law, which include:
- Bodily injury liability: $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident
- Property damage liability: $25,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist coverage: $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident
Since Missouri is a fault-based state, you can seek benefits from the at-fault party’s car insurance company. This includes damages for lost wages under the policy’s bodily injury liability coverage.
If your lost wages and other damages exceed what the at-fault party’s insurance policy will pay, you reserve the right to file a lawsuit for additional damages.
WHAT IF I AM HIT BY AN UNINSURED DRIVER?
If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver in St.Louis, you can recover lost wages through your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, which you are required to carry under state law. A study done by the Insurance Research Council showed that 16.4 percent of drivers in Missouri were uninsured in 2019.
EVIDENCE USED TO PROVE LOST WAGES
To prove lost wages, you must be able to establish your previous income and prove your loss of income that you were unable to obtain due to a car accident injury in Clayton. You will need to pinpoint the specific amount of time you missed at work and determine how much time you will miss in the future.
The following documentation can be used to establish lost wages.
Your employment contract (and related documentation) that detail important aspects of your job, including your rate of pay, paid time off, when you might be entitled to bonuses, benefits, and more. This information can lay a foundation for your lost wages claim.
Specifically, your most recent pay stubs. If you are an hourly worker or have hours that vary, these will be particularly important for establishing an average income. Your pay stub may also provide proof of accrued or used vacation time, overtime, and commissions, as well as benefits that you and/or your employer may have contributed to.
If your paycheck is deposited directly, you can use these transactions to prove your specific income and establish a frequency of payment.
If you have been at your job for a while, tax returns can reflect your total annual income, including bonuses and compensation that is awarded on top of your base pay.
WAGE LOSS STATEMENT
It is not uncommon for an employer to complete a wage loss statement, which itemizes your losses.
If your injuries prevent you from working, the insurance company or negligent party will want proof of that. To support a claim for lost wages, you will want your doctor to document your injuries and explain how they prevent you from working or have affected your earning capacity.
HOW ARE LOST WAGES CALCULATED?
Depending on how you are paid and the type of income you receive, calculating lost wages in a car accident claim in Kansas City can be complicated.
If you earn an hourly wage, you should receive your gross pay for every hour you have missed at work. If you earn a salary, you should receive your gross annual pay divided by the amount of time you have lost at work. If you miss two months on the job, you should receive compensation equal to two months of your gross pay.
If you use paid time off to recover, you are entitled to reimbursement for that time away from work, as well. After all, it is part of your compensation at work. PTO is calculated the same way your other lost wages are. One hour of PTO equals one hour of pay, one day of PTO equals one day of pay, and so forth.
Lost wage claims can become more complicated when you experience a loss of income for the foreseeable future or miss out on non-guaranteed income like bonuses or commissions. In these situations, expert testimony will likely be required to confirm that your losses are reasonably foreseeable.
You are also entitled to damages if you are self-employed, such as a freelancer or independent contractor. However, proving lost income can become a bit more complicated. You will have to rely on invoices, contracts, bank records, and tax returns to prove your reasonably certain future losses.
An experienced Missouri personal injury attorney can ensure your wages are properly calculated and that you are fully compensated for what you will miss out on while you recover.
SHOULD YOU ACCEPT A SETTLEMENT FOR LOST WAGES?
A settlement might wrap up your car accident case and put money in your hands sooner rather than later. However, when you settle, you also waive your rights to seek additional compensation in the future.
If you underestimate the seriousness of your injuries or the amount of missed work, you will be out of luck when your settlement check runs out.
You have limited options when it comes to your insurance coverage. Your insurer will only cover a portion of your damages up to your policy limits. However, you have more room to negotiate when you file a third-party claim or lawsuit. It is in your best interest to have a respected Missouri personal injury attorney as your advocate to ensure you are making the right decision for the short and long term.
CONTACT A MISSOURI PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER TO RECOVER LOST WAGES AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
A car accident can disrupt your ability to work and provide for yourself and your family. Whether you are temporarily unable to work, miss out on opportunities for bonuses and commissions, or are sidelined completely, Brown & Crouppen is prepared to seek compensation from those responsible.
Contact our car accident attorneys to discuss your case and learn how we can help you get the lost wage damages you deserve. We offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Reach out to one of our Missouri law offices to schedule your meeting today. We have locations in St. Louis, Kansas City, O’Fallon, St. Charles, Washington, and Arnold.