Can Car Accident Victims Recover Compensation for Lost Wages?
Medical bills and physical pain are common after a car accident, but these are not the only issues that can affect a victim’s life and finances. The loss of income that results from an inability to work while recovering can have a huge impact on a family’s financial situation and overall emotional health. Seeking compensation for lost wages is an important component of a personal injury claim. If you are temporarily or permanently unable to return to work following a car accident, a skilled personal injury attorney can help you understand your options for receiving the financial resources your family desperately needs.
Missing Work After a Car Accident
In Wisconsin, there are two key laws that protect the jobs of employees who need to take time off because of a serious health condition. The Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows a person to take up to 12 weeks of time off. The Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act functions similarly, allowing an employee to take up to two weeks of time off. However, both the federal and state laws only protect employees from losing their jobs, and the time taken off under these laws will typically be unpaid. This means that while an employee’s job may be protected for three months, he or she may not receive any pay during that time.
Types of Lost Wages
When injuries prevent a person from returning immediately to work, the loss of income can be devastating, causing a family to struggle to make ends meet. In a personal injury claim, a victim may be able to recover compensation for:
- Past lost wages which the victim was unable to earn while recovering from his or her injuries. For example, if a car accident rendered a person unable to work for six months, he or she may seek to recover the full amount of income that would have been earned during that period. It is also important to note that if an employee misses work because of injuries caused by an accident, and they use sick days or vacation days, they may still make a “wage loss” claim for the missed days, even though they were paid for those missed days (the technical claim is one for loss of earning capacity).
- Future lost wages may apply if a person suffers an ongoing disability that will cause him or her to be unable to work temporarily or permanently. For example, a victim who experiences paralysis resulting from a severe spinal injury may be permanently disabled, and he or she may seek to recover the income that would have been earned throughout the rest of his or her working life. The surviving family members of a person who was killed in a car accident may also seek compensation for their loved one’s future lost wages through a wrongful death claim.
- Diminished earning capacity refers to circumstances in which a car accident victim may be able to return to work, but not at the same level as before. For instance, a person’s injuries may require him or her to work fewer hours, or he or she may need to accept a lower rate of pay in order to work in a less physically strenuous position. In these cases, a victim may seek compensation for the difference between what he or she previously earned and what he or she is now able to earn.
Proving Lost Wages
If a car accident results in lost wages, a victim may need to show that his or her injuries were the direct cause of these financial damages. An attorney can assist in compiling the necessary supporting documentation to demonstrate the financial impact of the injury, including:
- A notarized letter from the individual’s employer, confirming the missed hours
- A lost wage form filled out and signed by a company’s Human Resources department
- Tax returns and bank statements, which can show the wages earned in the past and provide an estimate of the income a victim likely would have earned had the car accident not occurred
Business owners or self-employed victims of accidents are entitled to make wage claims, even though these claims may be difficult to prove. For example, some self-employed people may pay workers, or others may have family or friends who volunteer their time to handle business matters during the times the victim is unable to work. The gross income of the business may not properly demonstrate the lost wages. Those people nonetheless are entitled to be compensated for their loss of time, and there may be many ways to calculate the value of that loss. Demonstrating the value of the time lost in these cases may be quite complex, so the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer may be critical. In many cases, a self-employed person may not only lose time from work, but also customers who would provide a future income stream. For example, a dentist or a barber who misses time from work may lose a patient or customer to a competitor. Accurate records must be kept in order to properly document the full impact that an injury may have on the injured person’s past and future livelihood.
Contact a Green Bay Car Accident Attorney
The loss of income can place tremendous strain on a family’s finances, and it can impact the mental and emotional health of all family members. If you have been injured in a car accident and suffered lost wages as a result of your injuries, schedule a free consultation with the attorneys at Herrling Clark Law Firm, Ltd. today. Contact an Appleton personal injury lawyer at 920-739-7366.