Can I Be Reimbursed for Lost Wages After a Car Accident?
A car accident isn’t just a traumatic and frightening experience. It can also leave you with an uncertain financial future as you navigate costly medical bills while you are forced to take time off work.
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may even be facing long-term or permanent disability.
As an injury victim, you have the right to recover compensation for all types of damages caused by someone else’s negligence. This includes lost wages. However, recovering compensation for lost wages isn’t always easy, especially future lost wages or reduced earning capacity.
At Lattof & Lattof, P.C., our Mobile personal injury lawyers will help you fight for the full compensation you deserve. We will help you build your case to show the wage-related damages you have suffered and hold the responsible party accountable.
Seeking Damages For All of Your Lost Wages and Income
When your car or truck accident injuries were caused by someone else, you have the right to recover compensation for your damages. One of the most common types of compensatory damages in a personal injury claim is lost wages.
Most people who are seriously injured in an accident require at least some time off work. Some are never able to return to work.
Lost income or lost wages include all wages and benefits that are included in your compensation package at work, not just your base pay.
Depending on your case, you may recover lost income for:
- Base pay, or the regular salary or wages you would have received for the time you missed
- Overtime you typically worked during a busy season or a usual week
- Vacation and sick days you lost while recovering.
- Bonus days for which you would have received pay such as paid holidays
- Commissions and bonuses your employer usually pays based on your performance
- Pay raises if you were scheduled for a salary increase or a merit raise that you missed while recovering
- Benefits or perks of employment such as a transportation allowance or health insurance
- Retirement fund contributions you had to miss while recovering
Virtually any type of wages you should have earned while you took time off to recover from your injuries can be compensated. However, some types of wages are difficult to prove.
Lost Wages & Self-Employment in Alabama
Even if you are self-employed, you are still entitled to lost wages if you are successful in a car accident lawsuit. However, proving the income you lost can be difficult.
There are many ways you may be able to show lost self-employment income such as:
- 1099-MISC forms
- Proof of your business such as articles of incorporation or licenses
- Your prior year’s tax return
- Profit and loss statements for the year-to-date
- Correspondence with potential clients
- Documentation provided by an accountant
The claims adjuster will be suspicious of a self-employed income claim so be prepared to provide as much documentation as possible.
Recovering Compensation for Paid Time Off
If paid time off is a benefit of your employment, you are still entitled to be reimbursed for your time off work related to the accident. Paid time off (PTO), personal days, sick days, and vacation days can all be compensated.
It’s very common for accident victims to turn to their unused paid time off while they recover.
This allows you to maintain some income at least temporarily and may protect you from being terminated. However, these benefits are designed to be used at your discretion. You should not be forced to use up your paid time off when you are hurt due to someone else’s negligence.
If you needed to use sick leave, paid time off, or other compensated days, you can request compensation through your injury claim. In these cases, you should be compensated based on how much you earn per day.
How to Prove Lost Income in a Personal Injury Claim
As a general rule, you will only be compensated for lost wages when the time off work was medically necessary and directly related to the injuries. Proving these facts can be challenging in some cases. Your Mobile personal injury lawyer will help you prove your lost income and advise you on the steps you should take.
Because the insurance company will likely argue that your injuries were not serious enough to require time off work, you will need to be prepared with proof.
A doctor’s statement is a critical document to prove your claim. Your physician will review your medical records and ask questions including what you do for work and your work responsibilities.
They will consider your injury and how it affects your ability to do your job. Their statement can be used to prove that your injury prevented you from working.
If your physician believes you can return to work but with limited duties, their statement should explain work restrictions. If these restrictions can’t be accommodated by your employer, you are still entitled to lost wages if you keep missing work.
Your medical records can also be used to prove your claim for lost wages.
After proving that you missed work due to your injury, you must show that you missed the time. This can be done with:
- A letter from your employer
- Pay stubs
- Income tax returns
Your human resources representative can also supply a written statement of your pay and benefits including details about the time you missed and the benefits you used. Be sure to ask your employer to prepare a verification letter on company letterhead to verify income you lost such as paid time off, overtime you usually worked, any promotions you were being considered for, and other wages you lost.
Compensation for Lost or Reduced Earning Capacity
After a serious car accident, you may be left unable to return to the job you once performed. In addition to compensation for your immediate lost wages, you are also entitled to compensation for lost or reduced earning capacity from the at-fault party.
Injuries that are permanent or cause disability often result in significant settlements or jury awards. This means that insurance companies fight them as much as possible. Your car accident lawyer in Mobile may use an actuarial study or a forensic accountant to show evidence of your lost earning capacity and determine what you would have earned had you not been injured.
Your lost future earning capacity will be based on:
- Your earnings history
- Your lifetime work expectancy or how many more years you would have worked
- Residual capacity or your ability to learn a new trade and change fields
- Your training and education before you were injured
Note that you are entitled to recover for lost or reduced earning capacity if your car accident was the direct cause of the injury that prevents you from returning to work. You can still recover compensation if you had a pre-existing injury that was worsened by the accident to such a degree that you are now disabled.
Valuing a claim that involves reduced earning capacity can be very difficult. It’s important to turn to an experienced Mobile personal injury law firm to help you determine how much your case is worth and prove the extent of your injuries.
How Lost Wages Are Calculated in a Mobile Car Accident Claim
A formula will be used to calculate your basic lost wages. This does not include reduced earning capacity, a far more complex figure to determine.
If you are an hourly worker, your base lost wages are calculated by the number of hours of work you missed multiplied by your hourly wage. If you make $14.50 an hour and missed 97 hours of work, your base lost wages claim would be $1,406.50.
If you earn a salary, your annual salary would be divided by 2,080, or the number of weekday hours in an entire year. This number would be multiplied by the number of hours you missed. If you earn $46,000 per year, your hourly rate would be $22.12. If you missed 97 hours of work, your lost wages claim would be $2,145.64.
These formulas only determine the base wages you lost. You may have lost other wages that must be calculated such as lost promotions or bonuses and lost overtime pay.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Mobile Personal Injury Lawyer
Have you been seriously injured in a car accident and forced to take time off work? This financial burden should not fall on you when someone else caused the crash. Under Alabama law, you are entitled to seek compensation for your lost wages along with other damages you sustained.
The Mobile personal injury attorneys at Lattof & Lattof, P.C. has more than a century of combined experience representing car accident victims in fighting for lost wages and other damages. We are here to fight for you and protect your legal rights. Contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation with a Mobile car accident attorney to discuss your case.