Missing work is one of the many side-effects of getting injured. According to a 2013 study, an estimated $28 billion in productivity is lost in the USA every year because of missed workdays due to lower back pain alone. Billions and billions of dollars more are lost every year due to other injuries. People who are injured due to someone’s negligence may recover the money they lose for missing work.
Plaintiffs can recover for past lost wages as well as wages they will not be able to earn in the future due to their injury. Past lost wages must be proven by showing what the plaintiff was capable of making at the time of the accident and that the plaintiff missed time from work due to her injury. It is not necessary for a plaintiff to be employed at the time of an accident to recover past lost wages as long as she has a history of past earnings.
If a plaintiff still has not returned to work before trial, she can also claim future lost wages. Future lost wages are measured as earnings the plaintiff would have earned in her trade or profession had she not been injured. Future lost wages must be related to an occupation or skill set that the plaintiff has shown they are capable of performing.
Defense attorneys will sometimes argue the plaintiff is able to do their job, or at least a job that earns less money. If a jury finds the plaintiff was/is able to do some other job that earns less, they can still award the plaintiff the difference between what they were making at their pre-injury job and what they would make at the job that pays less.
Plaintiffs can also recover if their ability to earn money is reduced by the injury. While this may seem similar to future lost wages, it is technically a different claim, and proving it does not require the same type of specific evidence as lost wages. This is sometimes the best strategy to recover when plaintiffs are too young to have a work history. These claims can include arguments that the plaintiff is less likely to endure tough economic circumstances like mass layoffs, or that the they are less able to leave one job for another job they prefer, or that they are less likely to receive a promotion.
Employees are not the only ones affected by injuries; business owners also lose money when they cannot run their businesses. For businesses owners, lost earnings can be calculated by proving the number of days missed due to the injury and multiplying it by the amount of money they would have earned in an average day had they been working.
Proving lost wages and diminished earning capacity can be complicated. These claims sometimes come down to a “battle of the experts” at trial. Plaintiffs sometimes obtain testimony from their treating doctor, who may testify that the injury prevents the plaintiff from performing certain physical tasks. The defense may bring their own doctor who testifies the plaintiff is actually capable of performing those tasks. Both sides will sometimes hire “vocational experts,” who perform research and testify about what types of jobs plaintiffs can perform with their injuries. As a way to tell the jury what it should award the plaintiff, parties sometimes hire economists who reduce wages and benefits such as health insurance and vacation time into a single dollar figure.
Because they can be tough for plaintiffs to prove, insurance companies often push back hard on claims for lost wages and lost earning capacity. An experienced attorney can put the plaintiff’s best foot forward and increase the odds for recovery. If you have missed work due to injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, click here or call the attorneys at Rafi Law Firm for help.