Any kind of injury, whether it occurred as the result of a car accident or for some other reason, can force you or your loved one to have to miss work. If an injury is severe, this can mean a significant decrease in income, which can affect all aspects of your life. However, these wages can be recovered if they can be proven in court.
What Does the Term “Lost Wages” Include?
As mentioned, lost wages are generally defined by financial losses caused by missed time at work due to injury. It’s important to note here that the time missed may include both the hours missed during the work day as well as time taken for the treatment of your injuries.
The good news is that you are entitled to reimbursement for lost wages whether you are self-employed or not, get paid monthly, weekly or hourly, work all or part of the time, or work part- or full-time. If you had the ability to use vacation pay or take sick leave while not able to be at work, this may also be considered to be lost wages under the law.
In addition to lost wages, you may also be able to claim lost or diminished earning capacity. Also known as LEC, this can be applied if the injury you suffered impairs your ability to work and earn wages in the future. In order to claim LEC, your auto accident lawyer must prove that the injury is permanent and that it prevents you from being able to earn the same wages as you earned before the accident.
LEC can be difficult to prove, due to the speculative nature of evidence and calculations. Being successful in court may require the opinions of experts who can make comparisons between your quantity of produced work before and after your injury, and then predict your potential ability to recover and return to work.
Should expert witnesses be required, those who can provide insight into the treatment and severity of your injury, such as your doctor, may be the best choice. If you need to be able to show a comparison between the work you used to be able to do and that which you can do currently, a vocational specialist may be able to provide this type of evidence.
Proving Injury Claims if You Are an Employee
In order for your injury claim to be successful, you need to prove a loss of both time and wages. This can be done with thorough documentation. Keeping your paychecks and other such work-related documents will allow you to be able to demonstrate how much work you missed. If you don’t have copies of your paychecks and other documents, you should be able to get them from your employer by submitting a simple request.
If you are paid in salary or hourly, the number of work hours missed due to your injury can generally be calculated by adding up the number of hours missed and then multiplying that by your salaried or hourly wage.
If you are paid on commission, most lawyers for automobile accident victim will request additional information to support your claim, as the amount of lost wages can be challenged as speculative. This information can be obtained by consulting past earnings records for the same time period missed from work due to injury and then taking an average.
Proving Injury Claims if You’re Self-Employed
If you are self-employed, you will also need to ensure that you have proof in the form of supporting documents. However, it will need to be done a little differently. When you are a self-employed individual, you may need to be able to demonstrate both lost wages and lost opportunities as the result of your injury.
The goal of the self-employed individual trying to prove lost wages is to be able to show the court how much money could have been earned between the date the injury occurred and the date on which full recovery was achieved. Doing so may involve being able to present client invoices, statements from previous tax years, and 1099 forms.
Another way to obtain assistance with proving lost wages if you’re self-employed is to call on the expertise of an economist. These individuals can provide the court with insight as to the extent of your financial losses as well your business losses, which will allow you a better chance of obtaining the compensation you seek.
Submitting Tax Returns
Sometimes tax returns may be used in proving financial losses and they are often requested by the other side. Should you need or want to submit a tax return, you will want to ensure that your financial information also remains confidential as there is a considerable about of information apart from just the gross income amount for that taxation year. The other information, such as your Houston or Texas business exemptions or deductions, may or may not be relevant to your case.
If the year in which you became injured was a low-earning one, presenting an additional one or two years of earnings will help the judge or jury understand what’s typical, allowing them to better identify a pattern of earnings.
You can also request letters from companies you’ve worked with as an independent contractor. These should state the amount of compensation, employment status, and how many hours you missed in the time from injury to recovery.
If your work hours and income are sporadic, there is still a way to illustrate the value of work that you lost. To do this, simply look to what you earn during the course of one year, and then divide that amount over 12 months or 52 weeks if you wish to show weekly amounts.
Regardless of whether you are an employee or are self-employed, you will need medical records which identify the type of injury suffered and that also detail prescriptions for medications and other forms of treatment.
If you are planning to obtain a doctor’s note to support your claim, it’s important to be sure that the note contains accurate documentation that supports your inability to perform your usual work tasks. As well, any doctor’s notes should be obtained directly from the physician who treated you after you became injured, and each should contain that day’s date or the time period which they consider your Houston car accident injury will take you from work.
Although it may not seem significant, having doctor’s notes which have been written on the physician’s medical pad or formal stationery will provide additional proof of who treated your injury. The number of missed days mentioned on your doctor’s notes should correspond to the number of hours you’ve missed.
A Direct Link
Employees and self-employed professionals alike need to be able to provide the court with a direct link between the injury suffered and the time period in which work was missed. However, as stated previously, your case will not be complete without the help of supporting documents like pay stubs and employer letters.
Like obtaining doctor’s notes, any letters from an employer should be submitted on company letterhead with the appropriate signature. As well, the letter should include details such as hours scheduled to work during the time you were away, a breakdown of the amount you were to be paid for that time, and the dates missed at work.
Independent Medical Exam
In some cases, the other side or responsible insurance company may ask you to agree to an independent medical exam (IME) in order to be able to recover your lost wages. If an insurance company demands an IME, it may or may not be entitled to one and sometimes the issue must be decided by the judge.
The Right Attorney
When your case reaches the courtroom, there is simply no substitute for an experienced auto accident attorney. However, there are a few aspects to consider when trying to choose the right one to represent you.
The right attorney will ensure that your current pay is used as the basis for determining lost income in your case and will have significant experience in lost wages claims. When trying to choose the right attorney for you, you’ll also want to consider their track record, as well as seek out comments from previous clients.
If you’ve been recently injured in an accident, call the Houston Lawyers at Johnson Garcia LLP at (832) 844-6700 for a free case evaluation.