According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, less than 40 percent of people have a savings fund adequate to cover three months’ worth of expenses in the event of an emergency. What’s more, about half said they wouldn’t be able to cover an emergency expense of $400 without borrowing money or selling something.
Now consider that the average cost for a car accident with non-fatal, disabling injuries is approximately $62,000. Imagine grappling with that kind of financial blow when you are too injured to work.
At the Attorney Injury Group, our Massachusetts auto accident attorneys understand how overwhelming this can be. It can breed desperation and lead to signing a quick settlement agreement, even though the terms are unfair given the extent of losses.
Recovery of work loss damages (sometimes referred to as “lost wages”) is a critical consideration when determining valuation of an accident claim, and it should not be underestimated.
Those who are injured and cannot work may be entitled to work loss compensation through:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits
- Bodily Injury Liability Coverage
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage
- Workers’ Compensation (if you were performing a job function at the time of the accident)
- Umbrella Coverage (if the other driver had)
- Short-Term Disability Insurance
- Long-Term Disability Insurance
- Social Security Disability Insurance
- Income Protection Insurance
Not all of these kinds of insurance will be available to all accident victims. The type and amount of coverage available will depend on the nature of injury and the kind of insurance held by both you and the other driver.
What Are Lost Wages?
The terms “lost wages” and “work loss” refer to those wages you are unable to earn as a result of your car accident injury.
These losses may include:
- Lost wages for period of time in which you were unable to work.
- Compensation for vacation/sick time you had to use while recovering.
- Lost earning capacity due to long-term disability that has rendered you unable to earn as much money as you did previously.
- Lost opportunities, such as a missed job interview, promotion, pay bonuses, bonus days (i.e., holidays, birthdays, “mental health” days, etc.) , other employment perks or career advancement events.
Many of these kinds of compensation are often overlooked by injury victims filing auto accident claims. No insurance adjustor is going to inform you of your entitlement to them if you don’t add them yourself. And even if you do, the adjustor might dispute them.
This is a good reason for having a competent Massachusetts injury attorney on your side through this process. Because we understand the many types of wage losses to which you are entitled, we conduct a thorough analysis of all potential income sources and employment benefits in order to reach a fair valuation of your claim.
You should not have to spend valuable vacation time or miss out on key occupational benefits because of another person’s careless, negligent driving.
Proving Lost Income
Prior to taking time off work, it’s best to first have proof of legitimate injury. In cases where an individual is hospitalized, this is not too difficult. The medical record will clearly reflect an inability to come to work due to hospitalization.
However, when one is treated and released, they may still not be able to complete basic job functions. This determination should not come from the injured person, but rather from his or her physician. The doctor will write a report that will detail the nature and extent of injuries, the diagnosis and prognosis for recovery. It will also indicate the prescribed treatment, list any physical limitations and it should if necessary include a general indication of how long the injured person will be out-of-work.
This estimated time out of work is sometimes referred to as a “progressive prognosis.” This will list the restrictions (i.e., no bending, lifting, standing, squatting, sitting for long periods, etc.), if any, and it will also indicate if you cannot go to work for a time.
You should explain to your physician you need this medical narrative as part of your claim. This narrative should be specific and clear in order to avoid giving any ammunition to the insurance adjustor to fight against payment.
Beyond this medical narrative, you will need to obtain written documentation from your employer, which should be signed and dated and include the following:
- Dates you were absent
- Rate of hourly pay and/or salary at time of accident
- Number of hours normally worked through each pay period
- Amount of overtime hours worked in the months leading up to the injury
- Special projects which, if you had been able to complete, likely would have resulted in additional income, bonuses or perks
- Promotional opportunities for which you were being considered, but have since been filled
- Lost prizes or incentives for achieving certain work-related goals (i.e., movie tickets, gift cards, vacations, etc.)
- Sick, vacation and bonus days used in the course of recovery from the accident
- Any other benefits or perks lost as a result of being unable to work
Self-Employed, Irregular Employment or Unemployed
Injured car accident victims who are self-employed or unemployed can still collect lost wages, though proof of income may be a bit more challenging.
In cases of self-employed individuals, it may be necessary to hire an accountant who can provide a detailed study of past income and future income potential, including the growth rate of the business and the loss of new and existing customers as a result of the accident.
Although insurance company’s cannot deny a claim for lost income simply because someone is self-employed, they will probably analyze it much more carefully. Do not attempt to stretch or exaggerate your losses, or you may risk losing credibility.
Where a person retains irregular employment – meaning a position that is non-salaried or based on commission – one may need to provide previous year tax returns, evidence of missed appointments and jobs and a drop in billing invoices during the recovery period.
If an injured person is unemployed at the time of the accident, he or she may still seek 75 percent of his or her earning potential. A person might show he was slated to begin work shortly after the accident. This will not be an available option in all cases, but it should be explored with your personal injury attorney.
Contact the Attorney Injury Group today for a free and confidential consultation.