Can I Be Reimbursed for Lost Wages After a Car Accident?
After an accident, you may be left with significant and mounting expenses. Along with a painful and possibly lengthy recovery, you may be facing costly medical expenses and substantial time off work.
When your car accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, Texas law gives you the right to sue for the damages you have suffered. This includes not only property damage and medical bills but lost wages as well.
Still, it isn’t always easy to recover for compensation, particularly if your employment situation is complicated or you will have reduced earning capacity.
Jason Stephens of Stephens Law Firm, PLLC is an award-winning personal injury lawyer in Fort Worth who will help you fight for the lost wages you deserve. He will work to build a strong case to show the true wage-related damages related to your accident and hold the at-fault driver accountable.
Lost Wages Are a Recoverable Damage After a Crash in Fort Worth
In a personal injury claim, you have the right to seek financial compensation for almost any type of damages you sustained as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing.
One of the most common types of damages in a claim involving injury is lost wages.
When you are seriously hurt in an accident, you probably need to take time off work, whether it is paid or unpaid. You may even be left unable to work again.
Lost wages refers to any money you cannot earn due to your injuries from the accident.
This can include:
- Base pay, or the regular wages you would have earned for the time you took off
- Overtime you usually work or would have been required to work
- Sick days or vacation days you missed earning while you were off work
- Bonuses and commissions you should have been paid
- Salary increases, merit raises, or pay raises you were scheduled or on track to receive
- Perks of employment like insurance and transportation allowances
- Retirement fund contributions you missed
As you can see, the definition of lost wages can be quite broad. The goal of a personal injury lawsuit is to make you as whole as possible, and this includes compensating you for the wages you have missed.
Of course, some types of wages can be hard to prove. While you are entitled to lost wages whether you are full-time or part-time, salaried, hourly, or self-employed, documenting your wages can be tricky depending on the nature of your work.
Self-Employment & Lost Wages in Texas
If you are self-employed, you have the same right to lost income as someone earning wages in a personal injury claim. For freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers, determining and proving lost wages can be tricky, however.
Your lost income will be largely based on your normal workload and the amount of work you missed. There are many ways you can demonstrate your lost income such as:
- Tax returns
- 1099-MISC forms from previous years
- Correspondence with clients or potential clients
- Profit and loss statements
- Accountant-provided documents
Insurance companies often fight lost wages claims from self-employed victims so your personal injury lawyer will help you prepare by gathering as much documentation as possible.
Compensation for Paid Time Off & Sick Days
You are also entitled to compensation for time off work that was paid. All types of paid time off such as personal days, vacation days, sick days, and paid time off (PTO) days can be compensated through a claim.
This is common as many accident victims are forced to use their unused paid time off to recover before sometimes being forced to use unpaid time off. Even though you received income for the time off, the benefits were yours to use at your discretion. When you are forced to use them for an accident outside your control, they are not available if you become sick or want to take a trip.
You can still request compensation for compensated time off in your injury claim. The amount you are entitled to receive will be based on your daily wages. If you normally earn $175 per day and use 2 sick days, you can claim $350 in lost wages.
Proving Lost Wages in a Personal Injury Claim in Texas
Keep in mind you are only entitled to lost income for the time you needed to take off work that was medically necessary and a direct result of your accident.
It’s common for insurance companies to argue that your injuries did not actually require time off work.
You will need to show that the time off was necessary and document that you actually missed the time from work.
The best way to demonstrate this is with a physician’s statement. After reviewing your medical records and asking about your work and responsibilities, your doctor will consider how your injuries affect your ability to work. They will provide a statement that is helpful for documenting that your injury kept you from working.
This statement should also state if you are cleared to return to work but with restrictions and what the restrictions are. If your employer cannot accommodate these restrictions and you cannot return to work, you can still recover lost wages.
Once you demonstrate that your time off work was medically necessary, you will need to show that you missed the time from work. This can be done with many documents such as:
- Tax returns
- Pay stubs
- Letter from your employer
It’s also a good idea to speak with your human resources department to ask for a written statement of your benefits and pay. Make sure this statement includes the benefits used and time missed while you recovered. Your employer can also create a verification letter that verifies your lost income for overtime and wages, promotions you were being considered for, lost pay raises, and more.
Because proving lost income can be difficult in some cases, it’s important to work with an experienced Fort Worth car accident lawyer to document and fight for the lost wages you deserve.
Compensation for Reduced Earning Capacity
Your immediate concern may be recovering the wages you have already lost. However, many car and truck accident victims are left with long-term or permanent disability and an inability to return to their job. You are entitled to not only immediate lost income but compensation for reduced or lost earning capacity.
Of course, insurance companies often put up a fight against claims involving reduced earning capacity. Because a settlement or jury award will consider your earning potential for the rest of your life, the value of your claim can be significant.
An experienced personal injury lawyer in Fort Worth will work with experts such as a forensic accountant or actuary to demonstrate your lost earning capacity and what you would have earned. A claim for reduced earning capacity will consider:
- Your earnings history
- Your lifetime work expectancy, or the remaining years you would have continued working
- Your capacity or ability to learn a new trade
- Your education and training
Putting a value of lost earning capacity can be very complex. If your accident has left you with permanent or long-term effects, be sure to consult with a personal injury law firm in Fort Worth for legal counsel.
How Your Lost Wages Are Calculated in a Car Accident Claim
Calculating the base wages you have lost is generally straightforward and done with a formula.
If your wages are earned hourly, lost wages are calculated as the number of work hours missed multiplied by the hourly wage you earn.
If you earn $15 an hour and miss 100 hours of work, your base lost wages would be $1,500.
If you have a salary, your salary is first divided by 2,080, the number of workday hours in a year. This number creates an hourly wage which is multiplied by the number of work hours you missed. If your salary is $50,000, your hourly rate is calculated as $24.04. If you miss 100 hours of work, your base lost wages would be $2,404.
Note that this formula is only used to calculate your base lost wages. Other lost wages, such as lost overtime pay, promotions, and bonuses, must be calculated differently. Reduced earning capacity is far more complex to calculate.
Contact a Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyer Today
When you are left injured by a negligent driver and unable to work, you may be facing a frightening financial burden. You should not be responsible for the damages that someone else has caused to your life. Texas law gives you an avenue to recover the compensation you deserve for your lost income and reduced ability to earn a living.
Jason Stephens of Stephens Law Firm, PLLC is here to fight for you. He has won some of the largest awards in Texas history for his clients and received national recognition. He will strive to do the same for you.
Contact Stephens Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule a free case review with a Fort Worth car accident lawyer who will review your case and help you take the next steps.