When someone gets injured because of the negligence or recklessness of another party, there is a good possibility that they will have to miss some days from work because of the injury. This could be just a few days in the milder cases, or it could be several weeks or months (or longer) when the injury is more serious. In the worst cases, an injury could be permanent and debilitating, causing someone to lose their ability to go back to their job and/or participate in any other type of gainful activity.
If you have had to miss time from work because of a personal injury, you are entitled to compensation for both past and future lost earnings. But you will need to be able to substantiate your losses to the insurance company during settlement negotiations or prove them by a preponderance (i.e., majority) of the evidence if your case goes to trial.
Proving your lost wages is not always a simple and straightforward process, however. First of all, you will need to understand what is included in the calculation of lost wages, and you will also need to think about some of the complications involved with determining lost future earnings.
What Does Lost Earnings Include in a Personal Injury Case?
The first thing to consider when calculating your lost wages is your hourly rate multiplied by the number of days that you missed. For example, if you are a full-time worker who earns $20 per hour or $160 for an 8-hour day and you missed 20 workdays, your total hourly earnings lost would equal $3200. If you are on a fixed salary, just take your weekly or monthly pay and divide it by the number of days you normally work (during that period) to determine your average daily rate.
If you are paid hourly, you will also need to look at overtime. For example, if you regularly work overtime during a certain time of the year (such as CPAs during tax time or resort workers during the summer), then your average amount of overtime can be added into your lost earnings as well.
Do not forget about bonuses and other perks that you might have missed out on because of your injury. One of the best ways to prove lost bonuses is to show documentation of previous bonuses you have received. In addition, it would be helpful to present a report from your employer detailing how employees in your position earn bonuses.
If you have a job in which you rely heavily on tips, you will probably need to show your lost earnings based on the average amount of tips you claim on your taxes during each pay period. Hopefully, the amount you are claiming (in tips) is at least closely reflective of your actual earnings.
Calculating lost income for a self-employed person can be a bit more complicated. This might require bank statements, tax returns, and various business records that show your average earnings. If you have an accountant, ask them to help you prepare these statements.
One important note about paid sick days and vacation days. You might have used some or all of the paid time off you have available in order to go to the doctor and/or recover from your injury, and that is perfectly okay. If so, you should still be eligible for compensation for the days you missed. You had already earned this paid time off before your accident, so you should not be penalized by having to use it for an injury that was someone else’s fault.
Calculating Lost Earning Potential
Although there are some nuances to deal with when calculating lost income in the past, it is not as complicated as determining lost earning potential in the future. In order to accurately calculate future lost wages, you will need to know the extent of your injury and how long your recovery is expected to take for starters.
There are also some cases in which an injury claimant might be physically cleared to return to work, but they are not ready yet psychologically. In a case like this, a mental health professional might have to weigh in on the claimant’s readiness to get back on the job.
What about permanent and debilitating injuries? If a claimant has a long-term injury and is not expected to return to his/her job at all, then you will need to look at the length of time that they could reasonably have expected to continue working but for the injury. Usually, this means until retirement age.
In the case of a permanent injury, a defendant is likely to argue that, although the claimant cannot return to their old job, they may be able to perform some other type of work. This type of assertion brings up a lot of difficult questions, and however you come down on the answers to these questions, you will definitely want an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner arguing persuasively on your behalf.
Contact an Established West Virginia Personal Injury Firm
Proving lost wages is one of many complex tasks that must be done effectively in order to maximize compensation in a personal injury case. This is why a strong case begins with retaining skilled legal representation. If you or a loved one has been injured in West Virginia, the attorneys at Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. are ready to go to work for you. To get started, call our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979 or message us online for a free no obligation consultation.