In a split second, a car accident can turn your whole life upside down. Not only do you have to deal with a wrecked car, but you may also have to deal with serious physical and emotional injuries. The after-effects of the crash may even prevent you from working and earning a wage.
If you suffered a severe injury during a car crash and cannot work, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your lost wages and other income. In this article, the injury lawyers at Crosley Law outline factors that can impact your claims for lost income and wage-earning capacity.
Texas’ Negligence Laws and Damages: An Introduction
When someone else’s reckless or intentional behavior causes your injuries, you may have a negligence claim. Under Texas law, there are several key elements in a negligence claim.
- The person owed you a “duty of care,” like keeping a safe lookout while driving
- They violated this duty and caused your injuries
- You have damages from your injuries
Damages include losses you suffered from the crash, including your medical expenses, the cost of replacing or repairing your damaged property, and lost income and wage-earning capacity. Damages can also include non-economic losses like your pain and suffering.
After a car wreck, your personal injury lawyer will file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you can prove all the elements of a negligence claim, they should compensate you for your damages (up to the policy limits). However, it’s rarely that simple.
Insurance adjusters often try to reduce the value of your claim or deny compensation altogether. To make sure you get a fair settlement and the compensation you deserve, it’s important that you properly calculate your damages and lost income. Next, we’ll learn more about these calculations.
1. Collect Evidence That Documents Your Disability and Wage Loss
To get compensation for your lost income, you’ll need to prove that the losses directly resulted from your car crash. Typically, injury lawyers use medical records and other evidence to show that your injuries are disabling. If you have any medical records or disability slips from your doctors, give copies of those documents to your car accident lawyer. Your attorney should also supplement this information with additional documents, expert opinions, and other evidence.
Next, you and your lawyer will gather and review as many documents as possible to show what you usually expect to earn. These documents may include recent pay stubs, W-2s, tax returns, and information from your employer, small business, or clients.
2. Identify All Insurance Policies That Cover Your Lost Income
Texas is an “at-fault” state, so you’ll need to file injury claims under the negligent driver’s liability insurance policy. However, that may only be the start of your case. Most Texas drivers have other insurance policies that can step in and cover some of their damages. These policies can include:
- Personal injury protection (PIP): A no-fault insurance policy that covers your lost income and medical bills. Unlike liability insurance, you’ll file this claim with your own insurance company. Unless you declined PIP in writing, you should have at least a modest amount of personal injury protection coverage.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage: Many Texas drivers do not carry enough liability insurance. If your injuries exceed the at-fault party’s policy limits, you can file a claim under your own UI/UIM policy.
3. How to Calculate Your Lost Wages
When you work with Crosley Law, you don’t have to worry about calculating your lost wages. Our team will gather information about your injuries, disabilities, and lost wage-earning capacity. We’ll use this information to fight on your behalf. However, we think it’s important that you understand the basic process.
Lost Income From Hourly Wages
If you receive an hourly wage, calculating your wage loss may be relatively simple. You’ll multiply the amount you earn per hour by the number of hours missed due to your injury. For example, suppose you make $15 per hour and missed two weeks of full-time work (80 hours).
$15 per hour X 80 hours missed = $1,200 in lost wages
Lost Income From an Annual Salary
If you’re a salaried employee, you’ll need to add another step to your calculations. Divide your annual salary by the number of workday hours in a year (2080 hours). Then multiply this number by the hours missed due to your injury. For example, suppose you earn $40,000 per year and missed two weeks (or 80 hours) of work.
$40,000 / 2080 hours = $19.23 per hour
Multiply this result by the time you missed:
$19.23 per hour X 80 hours = $1,538 in lost wages
Lost PTO, Vacation Days, and Other Benefits
If you earn PTO and vacation days based on your hours worked, you may be able to demand compensation for these lost benefits. Similarly, if you’re unable to work for an extended period and lose out on retirement benefits, you can also include them in your personal injury claim. Typically, your lawyer will work with experts to calculate all of your lost benefits.
Bonuses and Other Issues That May Complicate Your Lost Income Claim
For many people, the calculation of lost wages is simple. However, many exceptions can make it more complicated. If you regularly earn and depend on commissions or bonuses, you’ll need to consider these factors in your calculations.
As an example, suppose you get a yearly bonus that’s partially based on the number of sales you make for your company. If you were on pace to reach your sales goals before the crash, your car accident attorney will provide this information to the insurance company and include your bonus in your settlement demand.
Wage loss calculations are also trickier for small business owners and the self-employed. This category includes freelancers, gig workers, and independent contractors. Determining your lost wages will depend on your normal workload and any work you missed because of your injury.
At Crosley Law, we’ve helped many small business owners and independent contractors get the compensation they deserve by using tax and business records to document their crash-related losses.
Lost Wage-Earnings Capacity
Many times, our clients have life-changing injuries that limit their ability to work long into the future. In these cases, you can demand compensation for your lost wage-earning capacity. Using medical records and information from your employer and vocational experts, your injury lawyer can help explain how your injuries will impact your long-term ability to earn wages and support your family.
Sometimes, our team represents young people who suffered catastrophic injuries. In these cases, we work closely with teams of physicians and vocational experts who help us understand how a young person’s injuries impacted their wage-earning capacity. For example, suppose a college student suffers a profound traumatic brain injury in a truck wreck. Before their crash, they were on track to graduate with a degree in biology and had planned on attending medical school. Our team will partner with experts who can calculate how much income they would have earned if the student had followed their intended career path.
4. Talk to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If balancing your insurance claims with your doctors’ appointments and family’s needs sounds like too much to handle, it’s time to talk to a personal injury attorney. When you work with a knowledgeable lawyer, they should carefully investigate your car accident claim, calculate your lost income and other damages, and fight back if the insurance company tries to undervalue your injuries.
“At Crosley Law, we give our clients the peace of mind they deserve. Rather than trying to negotiate a settlement on their own or dealing with an insurance adjuster’s harassing phone calls, our clients have the time and space they need to focus on their recovery. Plus, we have a no-fee policy, so you’ll never pay us unless you settle your car crash claim or win a jury award. Our team also offers no-risk, free case evaluations.”
At Crosley Law, we give our clients the peace of mind they deserve. Rather than trying to negotiate a settlement on their own or dealing with an insurance adjuster’s harassing phone calls, our clients have the time and space they need to focus on their recovery. Plus, we have a no-fee policy, so you’ll never pay us unless you settle your car crash claim or win a jury award. Our team also offers no-risk, free case evaluations.
5. Vocational Experts Can Help Support Your Claim
Your lawyer may also hire a vocational expert (VE) to support your claim and provide perspective on why your injury limits your ability to work and earn an income.
A vocational expert has specialized skills and can assess your earning capacity. When you meet with a vocational counselor, they will ask you questions about your training, education, skills, interests, doctor’s restrictions, and other factors. Then, they will compare your skills and abilities to your job description and other positions available in Texas. Based on their review, the expert will write a report and even testify at trial about your ability to earn wages.
Let’s return to our example of a college student with a TBI. Rather than attending medical school, the student is now working part-time, bagging groceries. First, the expert would meet with the student and review their medical and neuropsychological records. Next, the vocational counselor would determine how much they could potentially earn with their current limitations. Finally, the VE would assess how much the student would have made as a doctor, taking into consideration national and local compensation trends, the value of their lost fringe benefits, and other factors. In this case, a VE might find that the student lost millions in wages over their lifetime.
Crosley Law: San Antonio’s Trusted Injury Lawyers
If you’ve suffered a serious injury in a car crash, you don’t have to face the aftermath alone. Talk to an experienced injury lawyer from our team if you’re considering a claim to recover lost wages. Losing your ability to work may feel like a devastating blow, but you can demand fair compensation. With a little help, you may recover physically, financially, and emotionally.
Start with the easy first steps of gathering your documents. Then, call our law firm. We can help you understand the value of your claim.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.