How to Recover Lost Wages After a Car Accident Injury
You’re driving home after a fun night out with friends when suddenly, a drunk driver plows into your car at a stoplight. In the blink of an eye, your whole life changes and you find yourself suffering from serious and catastrophic injuries. During this time, you are forced to miss months of work while you recover from your injuries and put your life back together again. How will you pay your rent without your paycheck? How will you continue to support your family?
An injury from an auto accident can leave a victim unable to work, thus making it difficult to pay bills and support a family. If you were the victim of an accident at the fault of someone else, you have a right to be reimbursed for the income you lost while you recovered from your injuries. There are several ways to make sure you are compensated for lost wages, but determining the right course of action is best done with the guidance of an auto accident lawyer.
What are Lost Wages?
After a car accident, you may be able to collect compensation for lost wages. Lost wages refer to the money you would’ve been paid from working if your accident had not occurred. You can recover lost income that you were unable to earn because of hospitalizations, medical appointments, therapies, and work restrictions. In order to collect lost wages from missed work, however, you must establish the following:
- That you were involved in an accident
- That you sustained injuries in that accident
- That your injuries directly caused you to miss work
- Missing work caused you to lose income or benefits
Lost earning capacity and lost compensation are different types of damages than lost wages. Lost earning capacity is caused by any disability that you have suffered that results in a reduced capacity to work. Lost compensation includes lost wages, as well as other types of benefits that you have lost, such as compensation for sick and vacation days, bonuses and other perks of employment.
Car Insurance May Cover Lost Wages
Car insurance may be one viable option for recovering your lost wages. Before submitting your claim to the insurance company, you need to clearly establish liability and you must know what is covered under the terms of the policy. A law firm with dedicated accident attorneys can help you make sure you’re ready. There are several types of coverage that can be used to collect lost income due to missed work.
- Liability Coverage – If you were injured due to another driver’s negligence, you could submit a lost wages claim through the at-fault driver’s liability bodily injury coverage.
- UIM/UM coverage – If an uninsured driver injured you, you may be able to collect lost wages through your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage – if this is part of your insurance plan.
- PIP Coverage – In Arkansas, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage is optional, but if it is part of your plan, it will pay for your injuries and return your lost wages up to your policy’s limits.
Once you submit your lost income claim to the insurance company, they will most likely require you to take an independent medical examination, submit medical documentation, and fill out an employment authorization form. This insurance company can then confirm that you are actually injured and that your injury is preventing you from working to earn income. Be careful, however, because these forms also allow the insurance company access to your medical records and personal information. Be truthful on these forms and always include as much detail as you can when describing your injury and your lost wages. Inaccurate or incomplete documentation will result in your lost wages claim and settlement being denied.
Personal Injury Claim to Recover Lost Wages
If you find that your insurance policy or the driver’s car insurance policy are not adequate to recover your lost income, you can consider filing a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. Traditionally courts rule that victims are entitled to reimbursement for all the income they would have earned while instead treating and recovering. If you wish to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to be paid for lost income, contact an experienced car accident lawyer before proceeding. Your injury attorney can help you during the legal process to uphold the law and protect your rights to compensation. While some people recommended that you wait until you are recovered or until your condition is stable before filing a lawsuit, you should not wait to contact an attorney. Valuable evidence to prove your claims can be lost or destroyed during this time. The sooner you contact an attorney at law, the sooner your attorney can begin building your lost income case and negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf.
How to Prove Lost Wages
Proving lost wages is difficult, but not impossible. When you submit your claim with the insurance company, you must clearly show evidence that you have missed time from work and that you’ve lost income due to your injuries:
- Doctor’s notes or medical records – This is a key component to collecting the settlement you need. Your disability slip or medical records should clearly indicate your injury and that it was caused by your car accident. Your doctor should also include a note that recommends you take time off of work because of your injuries.
- Paystubs – In order to know how much compensation you’re entitled to, you must show your most recent pay stubs, W2 forms, or tax filings showing hourly wage or salary. If you are self-employed, this documentation gets trickier because you must show proof of the money you would’ve earned during your recovery. You can do this by submitting a copy of your accounting books, records of past receipts, and other payment forms.
- Letter from employer – You will also need to submit a letter from your employer that clearly shows the days you missed work due to your injury. It should also note your pay level or hourly wage, and any hours you usually work.
How to Calculate Lost Wages in an Arkansas Insurance Claim
When you suffer an injury and need to miss work, you lose out on valuable income. This can make it difficult to pay rent, mortgage, and utilities while you are recovering. Missing paychecks can put an unnecessary financial strain on already struggling families after a car accident. Fortunately, you can recover your lost wages in a car accident claim. Your Arkansas car accident attorney can help you estimate your lost wages after an accident.
Before estimating your lost wages, you will need to provide your attorney with documents that support your missed time from work. This could be a doctor’s note telling you how much time you need to remain out of work in order to recover. In addition, you will need to provide your attorney with documents of your employment and wage history. Most recent tax returns, pay stubs and W2s can help.
When calculating your lost wages, your attorney will determine if you are paid hourly or if you are a salaried employee.
Calculating Lost Wages When Paid an Hourly Wage
- Take your hourly wage and multiply by the number of hours you were unable to work after your crash. For example, suppose your hourly wage is $15 and you were out of work for five days due to your accident. If you typically worked 8 hours a day, you would multiply $15 x (8 hours x 5 days) = $600. This would be your total lost wages.
Calculating Lost Wages When Paid a Salary
- To calculate lost wages if you are paid a salary, you need to divide your salary and divide it by the number of weekday work hours in a year. This is 2080 hours. You would then have an “hourly wage.” Take that number and multiply it by the number of hours you missed due to injury. For example, suppose you make $50,000 a year in salary and you missed 5 days of work. Your total lost wages would be ($50,000/2080) x (8 hours x 5 days) = $961.
What if You are Self-Employed?
- If you are self-employed, such as a freelancer or independent contractor, you are not able to claim lost wages since you only make what you earn. Instead, you may be able to claim lost income instead. Lost income is different because it is the amount of money you would have made if you didn’t get injured in a car accident. You need to submit numerous documents of your average work income in order to show lost income. Your attorney can help you build a case to obtain lost income after an accident.
Making a lost wages claim can be complex and difficult without an experienced accident lawyer and trusted law firm on your side. If you have been left with no way to recover lost income due to an accident, consult the Arkansas auto accident lawyers at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton.
NOTE: This article was originally posted in September 2018 and re-published March 2020 with updated information.