Can I Be Reimbursed for Lost Wages After a Car Accident?
After a car accident, the at-fault party is required to compensate you for damages (including lost wages) that resulted from the collision.
Car accident injuries can turn lives upside down. The pain, suffering, and medical treatment required for accident injuries are time-consuming, disruptive, and expensive. Serious injuries often require months of compliance with a physical rehabilitation program or regular visits to specialists. Because complying with physicians’ orders and a medical treatment plan is crucial to recovery and getting back to normal, it is natural for accident victims to miss some amount of work in order to rest, recover, or attend doctors’ appointments. For many victims, missing work means missing pay or opportunities they normally would have received prior to the accident.
Types of Lost Wages That Can Be Reimbursed
- Regular Earnings – Compensation for your regular hourly wages or salary you would have earned if you did not have to miss work due to your injuries.
- Miscellaneous/Unique Earnings – Outside of your regularly-scheduled routine compensation, you may be entitled to compensation for other earnings. Examples include:
- Benefits – Items you regularly received from your employer as a benefit could potentially be considered lost wages. Examples include employer allowances for insurance, transportation, cell phones, profit-sharing plans, stock options, etc.
- Bonuses/Commission – You may be entitled to compensation for commissions and bonuses if you were going to earn that commission or bonus had you worked your regular schedule.
- Overtime – You may be entitled to compensation for overtime if overtime opportunities were regularly available to you prior to the accident and would have been available to you had you worked. Occasional/seasonal overtime pay might be available as well if your job usually offers overtime during the same periods each year. Example: department store workers who receive overtime opportunities around busy holidays.
- Paid Time Off (PTO) – If you used paid time off (sick days, vacation days, and other earned days) to rest, recover, or to attend doctors’ appointments for your accident-related injuries, you may be able to receive reimbursement for those days.
- Raises/Promotions – If you were on track to receive a raise or promotion (for example: your annual review was coming up) but that opportunity was missed or delayed due to being out of work for accident-related injuries, you may be able to receive compensation.
- Retirement Fund Contributions – If you or your employer regularly contributed to a retirement/pension plan but contributions had to be withheld due to financial difficulties related to missing work, you may be entitled to compensation for those missed contributions and/or your employer’s matching contributions.
Proving Lost Income After A Car Accident
Insurance adjusters deal with a large number of personal injury claims and therefore want to avoid overcompensating fraudulent or meritless claims. In order for you to receive compensation for lost wages, it makes sense that you have to prove your wages were actually lost. It is not enough to speculate, guess, or claim that you “might” have lost wages. The following documents are extremely persuasive in supporting a claim for lost wages:
- Paychecks showing the wages/income you were regularly receiving in the months leading up to the accident. Demonstrating a pattern is even more persuasive that you were guaranteed to receive a certain amount. For example: 3 months of pay statements/pay stubs just prior to the accident showing that you were regularly receiving the same amount each month and always worked a set number of hours.
- Doctors’ notes that detail your medical treatment plan and evidence why it was necessary for you to miss work. Missing work due to physician recommendations is always more persuasive than simply choosing to miss work for an extended period of time. For example, your primary care physician might prescribe physical therapy 2 times a week for 6 weeks in order for you to return to your pre-accident status. Their treatment recommendation might also state the importance of complying with a physical therapy program and how missing appointments can hinder recovery, thus demonstrating why missing work for appointments is necessary. Your physician stating that the nature of your job duties will hinder your recovery, especially in manual labor jobs, is also persuasive. Examples include weight lifting restrictions, shift restrictions such as no standing for more than 4 hours at a time, no operating heavy machinery while on medication, etc.
- Correspondence from your employer verifying the number of days/hours you missed from work and the opportunities you missed. Some examples include letters from previous periods leading up to the accident that show you were always eligible for a bonus/raise every quarter, letters evidencing your excellent job performance, prior commissions, etc. Additionally, if your job duties or job title changes and you are only eligible for a lower paying job due to the nature of your injuries (example: your job prior to the accident required you to lift heavy objects, but after the accident your physician ordered you to refrain from lifting heavy objects), correspondence from your employer confirming this is extremely important. Be mindful that insurance adjusters will consider what actions you took to lessen your damages such as your willingness to accept other jobs or accept job duties that you could perform with your injuries. For example, maybe you were not able to work the full 40 hours you were able to before the accident, but evidence that you made an effort to work part-time (if approved by your physician) reflects positively on your claim for lost wages.
- Expert opinions on future earning capacity in the case of permanent, life-altering injuries. It is difficult to place a number on the amount of money you would have been capable of earning in the future. Individuals who suffer debilitating injuries can recover compensation for future loss of income and decreases in earning potential. Your attorney may consider hiring an economist or financial expert who specializes in calculating future loss of income. Such financial experts will consider numerous factors like your age, skills, training, credentials, job titles you held before the accident, and job titles you are limited to after the accident due to your injuries. This will help them form an opinion and even come up with an estimate of what you could have earned in the future had you not been injured.
Additional Legal Considerations for Lost Wage Reimbursement
When you hire a personal injury attorney at Brown & Crouppen, they will explain to you what documents in your possession are important to evidence your claim for lost wages. Your attorney can also assist you in obtaining such documentation if needed. The personal injury attorneys at Brown & Crouppen work persistently to obtain the highest value for your claim, so do not be surprised if they ask you questions regarding the nature of your employment in order to ascertain whether or not something can be included as lost wages. In some cases, your attorney might even point out something that could be considered lost wages that you did not think of.
In all cases, it is always beneficial to keep any documentation that evidences any loss of income, lost opportunity, or time from work whenever you are pursuing a personal injury claim. Damages cannot be recovered unless they are proven.
If you have any questions regarding what may be considered lost income and what may be recoverable due to your accident, speak with a personal injury attorney at Brown & Crouppen toll-free at 1-888-802-0827, or use our contact form.