Can I Be Compensated for Missing Work After an Accident?
More than 6 million car accidents occur in the U.S. every year; more than 2 million leave victims with serious, long-term injuries. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by someone else, you may be entitled to various economic and non-economic damages.
Like many people facing long-term recoveries from auto accident injuries, you may be wondering if you can receive compensation for missing work. The simple answer to this question is yes. As long as you can show the accident was someone else’s fault and that you lost wages while recovering from your injuries, you should be compensated for those damages.
Insurance companies fight tooth and nail to avoid paying damages on car accident claims, so filing a personal injury lawsuit is often necessary to receive full compensation for your losses. To ensure that you collect every penny to which you are entitled, it’s imperative to enlist the help of a qualified and experienced California attorney as soon as possible.
Did You Lose Income After Being Injured in a Car Accident?
Being injured in an auto accident is overwhelming. It’s even worse when the accident happens because of the negligent behavior of a third party. In addition to racking up huge medical bills while recovering from your injury, you may miss out on income that you otherwise would have earned. Unfortunately, this lost income isn’t automatically paid back to you. In most cases, you have to go to court to fight for it.
Losing Income while Recovering from Auto Accident Injuries
Immediately after a car accident, you may have to go to the hospital for emergency treatment. You must often stay in the hospital for an extended period until you are stable enough to return home. You may be missing work and not collecting your regular paycheck throughout all of this. In the meantime, day-to-day expenses keep accruing. On top of them, you now have to deal with ever-increasing medical expenses related to your injury.
A qualified personal injury attorney can help you demonstrate that you lost income while recovering from injuries you incurred during the accident so that you can seek full and fair compensation.
Losing Income from Being Unable to Return to Work for Other Reasons
Even after physically recovering well enough to go back to work, you may be unable to do so for a while because of the impact the experience has had on your mental health. In particular, accident victims often develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which can be debilitating enough to keep them from resuming normal activities. An experienced California attorney specializing in personal injury claims can help you prove that you lost additional income after being unable to return to work due to psychological distress or other mental health issues stemming from the accident.
You’re Entitled to Compensation Even if You Have Paid Sick Days or Other Benefits
Sadly, many people injured in auto accidents caused by other people’s negligence resort to using benefits like personal time, sick days or vacation days to recoup the income they lost after being injured and rendered unable to work. Those benefits are designed to be used at your discretion – not as a stopgap for maintaining income after being injured because of another party’s negligence. Even if you’ve already used them, you can recoup the costs of those benefits by filing a personal injury claim.
How to Get By Until Recovery is Made
After being injured in an automobile accident caused by another person and losing income because of it, it’s vital to enlist the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer right away. The at-fault party’s insurance company is unlikely to pay your lost wages as you incur them, so you may need to find alternative options to keep you afloat until receiving recovery via a settlement or a personal injury claim.
Potential options for staying afloat financially while waiting to be compensated for lost income include the following:
- Short- or Long-Term Disability Insurance – If you bought this coverage yourself or have it through your employer, you may be able to file a claim against it to receive income during this period.
- Personal Injury Protection Coverage – You may have PIP coverage through your car insurance policy. It can provide a limited amount of lost income reimbursement while your case is pending.
- Workplace Accident and Disability Policies – Your employer may offer coverage if you are injured and unable to work for an extended period.
- Cover the Shortfall Yourself – If all else fails, you can dip into your savings account or borrow the money you need from friends or relatives.
What About SSDI?
Social security disability insurance, SSDI, generally isn’t a viable way to recoup lost income following an automobile accident injury. To be eligible, you must have a long-term disability, for example. You must also have enough “credits” to collect SSDI; in most cases, that means having worked consistently for at least 10 years. Finally, you must have a qualifying condition to be eligible for SSDI, which can be challenging to establish.
Can Workers Comp Help?
Another possible way to stay afloat after being injured and left unable to work following a car crash is by collecting a paycheck through your employer’s workers compensation insurance. If you were on the clock when the incident occurred, you might be entitled to Temporary Total Disability, or TTD, pay. However, if the accident happened off the clock, workers comp isn’t a viable option.
Lost Earning Capacity Following an Auto Accident Injury
What if you are still technically able to work after your accident, but your injuries will affect your earning potential for an indefinite period? In that case, your personal injury attorney may be able to help you get compensated for lost earning capacity.
Even if you’re still working, you may be able to recover damages if the disability you’ve incurred from the accident prevents you from earning higher pay, pursuing a new career path or otherwise keeps you from pursuing economic opportunities. Since this involves speculating about the future, determining the amount of damages can be tricky. Your attorney can enlist the help of economic expert witnesses to bolster your claim and provide ballpark estimates for your lost earning capacity.
Proving and Calculating Lost Wages
Various pieces of evidence may be used to prove that you’ve lost out on income after being injured in a car crash.
If you have an employer, they may provide a Wage Verification Form that calculates your lost income while being out of commission. Other documents that may be used to establish that you’ve lost income and the value of that income include the following:
- pay stubs
- time sheets and time cards
- state and federal income tax returns
- W-2 forms
- a copy of your employer’s benefits policy
- bank statements
You’ll also need to gather medical records to demonstrate the severity of your injuries and how long you missed work and lost income.
Depending on your line of work, you may receive additional damages in the form of tips or bonuses. Your attorney can help you collect proof of these additional non-salaried benefits to bolster your personal injury claim.
Proving Lost Wages When Self-Employed
If you’re self-employed, proving lost income can be more complicated since it often fluctuates. There are also intangible lost opportunities, including new clients and projects, representing other lost income sources. Therefore, you’ll also need to provide proof of any projects or contracts you were unable to complete or any crucial appointments or meetings you had to miss, along with tax documents like 1099 forms.
Collecting Damages for Lost Income and Lost Earning Capacity in California
In a perfect world, you’d automatically be able to collect lost income after being injured in a car crash caused by someone else. In reality, you usually need to file a personal injury claim and provide ample proof to do so. With that in mind, it’s essential to hire a competent and experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
With help from your California attorney, you can gather the documentation you’ll need to establish how much you typically earn, including non-salary benefits like PTO, bonuses and tips. Your lawyer can help you collect proof of the severity of your injuries, including medical records and hospital bills, which may be used to bolster your case, increasing the odds of a successful outcome.
Juries have a lot of leeway in personal injury cases in California. They’re allowed to use their “common sense” to determine a fair number for compensating injured parties for lost wages and lost earning capacity – even if the proof is somewhat vague or speculative. By enlisting the help of a skilled attorney, you’re more likely to be awarded all the damages that you’re owed. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation and lay the foundation for a successful personal injury lawsuit.