Lost Wages

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Claiming Lost Wages After a Car Accident

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Seeking compensation for your losses after a car accident can be overwhelming. When injuries from the accident cause you to miss work, the settlement process can quickly become even more frustrating and potentially disastrous for your financial situation. Fortunately, North Carolina law provides victims the ability to seek compensation for financial, mental, and physical losses related to or arising out of a motor vehicle accident.

In many cases, pursuing reimbursement for your lost wages is just as vital as receiving compensation for your injuries. Generally, if you have missed time from work due to injuries suffered in an accident, you may seek reimbursement for those lost wages. The nature of your employment and the scope of your injuries have the greatest effect on what you will need to present as evidence. However, the process of asserting a strong claim for lost wages is, for the most part, straightforward and relatively simple. This section of the website is designed to assist you in understanding the mechanics and procedures for formulating and presenting a strong claim for your lost wages.

If you would like to speak to one of our Durham car accident lawyers about your particular case, please contact Wallace Pierce Law online or by phone at (919) 887-7892 for a free consultation.

What Types of Losses Can You Claim?

Lost Wages

If your accident-related injuries caused you to miss work, you will most likely be able to seek compensation for your lost wages. Generally, lost wages are measured by the amount of money you would have received in wages if you had not missed work due to the accident. This means that lost wages are very much dependent on your inability to work as a result of the accident and not necessarily on the time you missed from work as an indirect consequence of being in the accident.

When asserting a claim for lost wages, it is essential to support all allegations, contentions, and demands for reimbursement for lost wages with appropriate documentation and evidence. Additionally, documentation and evidence will need to be complete and consistent with the treatment that has been rendered by your medical providers showing your inability to work as a result of the accident.

Furthermore, if your injury causes you to lose your current paying job, and you are then forced to accept a job that pays less, you may be entitled to claim the difference in pay between the two jobs for a period of time depending on the facts and evidence of your claim.

Lost or Diminished Earning Capacity

Loss of earning capacity, or “LCE,” refers to a person’s impaired or diminished ability to earn income in the future. If your injury impairs your ability to work, you may be able to claim loss of earning capacity.

Usually, two things are present when claiming loss of earning capacity:

  • Permanent injury
  • Injury that affects the injured party’s work ability

For instance, if you permanently injure your arm and your job requires heavy lifting, you may be able to claim loss of earning capacity because you are unable to use your arm to perform your work.

Loss of earning capacity is difficult to prove as the evidence and calculations can be somewhat speculative and may require expert opinions. Determining lost earning capacity involves making predictions and comparisons between future work production both before and after the injury took place.

In simple terms, loss of earning capacity is the difference between what you may have been capable of earning before your injury and what you are now capable of earning after your injury. Typically, loss of potential career growth, such as promotions and raises, should also be taken into consideration when presenting your claim. It is important to note that claims for lost or diminished earning capacity typically involve larger personal injury claims in which a qualified medical professional has diagnosed the accident victim with a permanent injury as a result of the accident.

Lost Opportunities

Lost opportunities can be sought when an individual loses business or a potential business opportunity due to their injury. Generally, you will want to provide evidence that you had received an income opportunity, but, due to your injury, the opportunity was lost. These types of losses are more prevalent with entrepreneurs, although they are available to all individuals.

For example, if you can prove that you were unable to perform a contractual obligation because of your injury, you may be able to seek payment for a lost opportunity. For those who are not entrepreneurs or those that are new business owners, it will be much harder to prove damages from a lost opportunity. For those who are not self-employed, lost opportunities are generally limited to that of missing a job interview or sales meeting. These are much more speculative in nature, as there is no guarantee that you would have landed the job or sale. As such, these types of lost opportunities are harder to prove as loss of income.

Evidence Used to Support Loss of Income

You should stay on top of tracking any and all lost income as early as possible in your personal injury case. Provided below is a general overview of the two types of evidence needed to support your lost wage claim.

Proper Documentation

There are several key types of documentation that you will need to support your lost wage claim, including but not limited to:

  • Your doctor’s note(s) writing you out of work
  • Notes from your employer
  • Financial statements and reports
  • IRS tax returns

Please be sure that your doctor’s notes accurately document your inability to work or perform your usual duties. Additionally, the medical provider who actually treated you should provide your doctor’s note to you. The treating physician’s note(s) should include the date for every day you are out of work. The doctor’s notes should be written on the medical provider’s formal stationary or medical pad. Generally, the notes should include information such as the dates you are to be out of work, dates of treatment, injuries sustained, and a projected date for return to work.

Another form of documentation pivotal in supporting your claim will be verification from your employer that you did, in fact, miss work.

The employer’s statements should be written on the company’s formal letterhead with the proper signature (manager or higher) and include information such as:

  • The dates you missed work
  • The hours you were scheduled to work on the days you missed
  • The amount of money you would have made if you had worked the days you missed
  • A breakdown of your pay (hourly/commission)

If you are an entrepreneur or small-business owner, your financial documents, financial reports, and IRS tax returns for the relevant period of time will be key in proving and supporting your lost income claim. You should have at least two to three years’ worth of tax returns and financial documents in order to support how much money you may have lost and to ensure that the insurance company is able to compare your claims for lost income against years where there has been no loss. If you do not have the requisite financial records or documentation to support your claim, please consider speaking to your accountant or any Certified Public Accountant to assist you in gathering these important documents. If you do not have access to a financial advisor or tax professional, consider requesting your personal and business tax returns directly from the Internal Revenue Service.

We Are Here For You

Expert Witnesses

Depending on the nature of your claim and the income you have lost as a result of the accident, having a qualified and experienced financial expert to support your claim may be necessary, especially if your case goes to trial. However, depending on your personal injury claim, locating and hiring physicians, vocational specialists, and economists can be useful to support claims of lost income.

Physicians should be considered critical in providing:

  • Insight into the severity of your injuries
  • The typical duration of your injury
  • Your ability to work
  • Life changes that your injuries may have caused

A vocational specialist will generally be pertinent when you suffer severe or catastrophic injuries. Vocational specialists are often used to illustrate the type of jobs that you were able to perform compared to what positions you are now able to perform considering your injuries. As you can imagine, this type of evidence is important when your injuries no longer allow you to work for your current employer or in your current profession or field. A vocational specialist can then use the information to support a claim for your wage differences before and after your accident.

Finally, an economist may also be helpful, especially if you are an entrepreneur or small-business owner. An economist will be able to provide insight into how much money your injuries could have caused you to lose in the past or what they may cause you to lose in the future. The economist will not only be able to calculate the extent of your losses, but also the losses to your business, which will be important in seeking complete and adequate compensation.

Claiming Lost Wages as an Employee

Claiming lost wages or income as an employee is significantly less complicated if you are employed hourly or salaried as opposed to being employed on a commission scale. The basis of an employee’s lost income involves being able to seek adequate compensation for lost wages, lost earning capacity, and even lost opportunities.

Claiming lost wages or income should be determined based on how you are paid, meaning hourly, salary, or commission.

Depending on your particular employment situation, you may also be able to claim:

  • Lost bonuses
  • Vacation pay
  • Sick pay
  • Missed promotions

It is important to understand that your current pay, regardless of how you were paid at the time of your accident, should be used as the basis for determining your lost wages and income. While financial records and documentation from your employer will be helpful in asserting a claim for lost wages, it may be helpful to also present statements from medical providers, personal physicians, or economists to help support your lost wage claim.

Claiming loss of opportunity as an employee may be difficult, as most lost employment opportunities are difficult to quantify and prove. For instance, as an employee, you must be able to use evidence to prove that a lost meeting or sales opportunity resulted in lost wages. However, because lost opportunities as an employee are often speculative, receiving compensation for them in your settlement or award can be tough and may require the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Claiming Lost Income as an Entrepreneur

Claiming losses to your income when you are an entrepreneur or small business owner can be exceptionally difficult. Generally, entrepreneurs and small business owners will need more detailed documentation to prove and support lost wage claims given the manner in which insurance companies and adjusters approach self-employed lost wage claims.

Depending on the facts and details of the individual case, an entrepreneur or small business owner may be able to claim:

  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Lost opportunity

Proving lost wages as an entrepreneur will take time and effort. For one, entrepreneurs and small business owners will typically need to provide more evidence to prove compensation and actual missed days of work, as one cannot simply go to an “employer” for the necessary information. Most successful claims for lost wages by entrepreneurs typically involve gathering financial statements, reports, and tax records. Additionally, entrepreneurs or businesses entering into contracts on a regular basis will likely need to produce lost contracts or invoices. Moreover, contracts or invoices proving work schedule, accounts receivable and accounts payable, and letters or testimonials from customers will all be essential in proving and supporting claims for lost income.

Any claim by a small business owner or entrepreneur for loss of earning capacity will likely require detailed documents and financial evidence in order to be successful. Not only will the proper documentation be necessary, but evidence and calculations by financial experts will also be exceptionally important in proving your claim. It is important to remember that claiming loss of earning capacity as an entrepreneur or business owner may entail showing and proving that your business will lose income in the future because of the injuries you sustained as a result of the car accident. Proving damages for loss of earning capacity as an entrepreneur may be difficult without appropriate documentation and evidence. Moreover, insurance companies have traditionally taken a skeptical position or outlook on all lost incomes claims by entrepreneurs and small business owners, especially when the claimant lacks sufficient documentation.

You may also have a claim for lost business opportunities as an entrepreneur. Lost business opportunities are generally difficult to prove, as they can be speculative. When you own your own business, lost opportunities generally arise when you lose potential clients or customers due to your injuries sustained in the accident. In order to prove your claim for lost business opportunities, you will need to provide evidence proving that “but for” your accident the customer or client would have hired you. In order to support your claim, you should include copies of your correspondence between the client or customer, proving how close you were to landing the opportunity. Moreover, letters from the potential customer or client confirming that they would have become a customer if not for you being injured would constitute even stronger evidence.

Can I Claim Lost Income Even If I Do Not Have a Job?

Generally speaking, it is possible to claim lost wages or income if you do not have a job. However, making a claim and successfully proving a claim for these types of lost wages are two very different issues. Further, successfully proving a claim for lost wages when you are between jobs will be exceptionally difficult.

In North Carolina, anyone who is injured in an accident due to the negligence of another is entitled to pursue losses to their income, whether they are employed or not. Given that everyone should have the right or choice to work, when that choice is taken away, the party responsible should have to pay damages. However, the concern rests in proving what those damages are. In most circumstances, establishing lost income or wages will come from proving that you have sustained a loss of earning capacity as a result of your accident.

Can I Claim Lost Wages When I Did Not Lose Any Pay?

Yes, in certain circumstances you may claim these types of losses. If you are injured in a car accident and miss work, but continue to be paid because you elect to use earned vacation or sick pay, you may be able to seek compensation for this loss. Generally, you are entitled to use your vacation or sick time when you so choose; therefore, a plausible argument can be made that you should be reimbursed for that lost time if you use it following an accident.

What If I Suffer Severe or Catastrophic Injuries?

It is highly important that you consider contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer if you have suffered a severe or catastrophic injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, as this type of claim can be extremely complicated.

Receiving just and fair compensation for such injuries is of the utmost importance in order to cover continuing treatment and care that you may require for the rest of your life. If such an injury does occur, you may be able to claim lost wages, lost opportunities, and loss of earning capacity. Both an economist and vocational specialist will be vital in calculating your lost income due to your diminished ability to work as a result of your catastrophic injuries. In addition to gathering financial documents and reports, it may be necessary to speak to your medical provider and seek an evaluation of your permanent injuries and work restrictions.

Moreover, if you have suffered a permanent and life-altering injury, it may be important to explore preparing a life care plan. A life care plan is a projection of your current and future medical and physical needs. These plans mostly tend to prove current and future medical expenses and needs, but they can also be helpful in illustrating the extent to which your work ability and personal life have been damaged due to the accident.

Remaining Realistic About Your Recovery for Lost Income

While you are entitled to reimbursement for lost wages and income, the law places restrictions on your ability to recover damages that have been lost or those damages that will be lost as a result of an accident. Setting and keeping realistic expectations is important in reaching a satisfactory settlement.

Without the proper documentation and evidence, your entire claim for lost wages or income could be harmed or even denied. Furthermore, all claims for damages including lost income must be supported by sufficient and appropriate documentation, and the loss must be causally related to the accident.

Why Work with an Attorney?

Personal injury attorneys understand that claims for lost wages are often the most scrutinized by the insurance company when assessing your claim for compensation. Additionally, financial evidence and proof can be difficult to locate or may prove to be subjective without the assistance of a financial expert such as an economist or vocational specialist. Therefore, being aware of these difficulties and understanding that maintaining realistic and appropriate expectations for the process and what the law can provide in terms of compensation will be essential.

We encourage you to reach out to our firm to find out how we may be able to assist you with your car accident claim. Our Durham personal injury lawyers have been serving the region for more than 10 years, and we can help ensure that you fully understand all of your legal rights and options.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation; call (919) 887-7892 to get started.

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