How to Recover Lost Wages in Your Personal Injury Case

When you’re hurt in a Florida personal injury, there’s a good chance that you’re not going to be able to work for a while. You might be worried about making ends meet and taking care of your family while you should be focused on your recovery.

Fortunately, Florida law gives injury victims the right to recover for their lost wages and lost earning capacities after an accident. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer gives you the best shot at recovering the maximum amount possible for lost wages. Here’s what to know about how to recover lost wages.

What Are Lost Wages?

Lost wages and lost earning capacity are two types of damages that you can recover after a personal injury accident. They’re damages that are meant to compensate you when you can’t work because of the accident. There’s a good chance that you’ll miss some work right after you’re hurt. In the case of a severe injury, your long-term career plans may change. Florida law allows you to seek compensation because of your inability to work.

Compensation for lost wages is a part of economic damages. Lost wages are damages that you calculate based on your actual, out of pocket losses and your future projected losses. Lost wages are a mathematical calculation. As accurately as possible, you calculate your actual losses and ask for that amount as an award for lost wages and earning capacity.

What’s the Difference Between Lost Wages and Lost Earning Capacity?

Even though they’re often grouped together, lost wages and lost earning capacity are different things. Lost wages compensate you for actual lost work from the time you’re hurt to the time you resolve your case. It’s based on what you actually would have made if you had been able to continue to work. Lost wages don’t look into the future. Instead, they’re based on what you lost in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

On the other hand, lost earning capacity looks at what you’re likely to lose long term. If your career outlook changes because of your injuries, you can ask for compensation because of the change of plans. It’s a bit more complicated to determine how much less you’re likely to earn over the course of your entire career. However, you have a right to recover for your long-term earning losses.

For example, say you’re a dental assistant. You’re in an accident, and you sustain a broken wrist. You’re unable to work as a dental assistant for ten weeks. You can calculate your lost wages for those ten weeks and include them in your damages for your injury. If it turns out that your injuries prevent you from ever returning to work as a dental assistant, you can include your likely lost earnings in the future including promotions that you likely would have received.

What’s Included in Lost Wages and Lost Earning Capacity?

When you’re calculating your lost income, everything’s included. You start with your hourly wages or salary. Add your bonuses, tips, and incentive pay. You can even include your benefits, sick pay, and vacation time.

Anything that you would have received because you worked is something that you can include in a calculation of your lost wages and lost earning capacity. If you likely would have received a promotion or raises, you can add them in your calculations. Your attorney can help you make sure that you include all of the types of lost compensation in your personal injury claim.

How Do I Prove My Lost Wages?

To prove your lost wages, you should gather all of the documentation that you can about what you made. An employer can provide a written statement of what you were earning at the time of the accident.

Calculating Lost Wages for Personal Injury Claim

Tax statements and pay stubs can also tell the story. When your claim includes lost earning capacity, you might work with a medical professional or occupational expert to explain how your injuries are likely to impact you long term.

What If I’m Self-Employed?

Yes, you can recover for lost wages and lost earning capacity if you’re self-employed. You might use a business accounting or tax records to show what your losses are.

If you’re self-employed, it’s important to prepare your documentation carefully. However, Florida law allows you a full and fair recovery for your lost wages when you’re self-employed.

What If the Other Side Disagrees About How to Calculate My Lost Wages?

If the other side disagrees with your calculation of lost wages, it’s up to the jury to decide. The jury looks at all of the evidence to determine whether to award you lost wages and how much you deserve.

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal ruled in 2013 that there’s no specific evidence that you have to present for the jury to award lost wages. In the Maggolc v Roberson case, the court ruled that the jury can award lost wages as long as you show your losses to “reasonable certainty.” The court also said that the burden for proving your lost wages is lower than the burden to prove that the defendant caused your injuries.

Can I Collect Lost Wages From My No-Fault Insurance?

Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. That means all drivers have to carry a minimum amount of insurance to cover their own losses if they’re in a car accident. Florida law 627.736 says that no-fault insurance policies must pay 60 percent of lost income and earning capacity damages up to the policy limits.

You can collect this compensation directly from your insurance company. However, you should still consult with a Florida attorney because no-fault policy limits are often far too low to compensate you for your lost wages adequately.

How an Injury Lawyer Can Help

At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys we are ready to help you build a strong claim for recovery and aggressively pursue it. Our qualified legal team has the experience necessary to ensure you get the best recovery possible, including the maximum amount for lost wages and earning capacity.

If you need help recovering for lost wages or lost earning capacity, contact us at (813) 333-6666 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case evaluation. There is no fee unless we win.

About the Author

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

For more than 35 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.