If you have suffered an injury in a car wreck, you may have been forced to miss weeks or months of work as a result. Or, perhaps you are currently unable to return to your job. For many families, this places an undue strain on their financial security.
The good news is, if you sustain car accident injuries, you can make a claim for those lost wages. Here, we are going to look at how a Nashville accident attorney can help you recover your income, and what you can do to help your case.
What are “lost wages,” exactly?
Lost wages fall into two primary categories:
- The income you didn’t receive from your job, because your car wreck injury left you unable to work
- The wages you won’t be able to earn because you cannot return to work, or because you cannot return to the work you once did. (This is sometimes called a “loss of earning potential.”)
In order to make a claim for compensation for lost wages, you have to be able to prove that you were earning money.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what kind of income you make, so long as you can prove that you have one. And for that reason, calculating lost wages isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Proving lost wages as an employee
If you’re an employee, proving loss of income can be relatively easy. You’ll need to supply your pay stubs, though, so your attorney can see:
- Your overall income loss since the accident
- Your hourly or biweekly earnings
- Your expected losses in overtime, commissions, bonuses, or promotions
You should also get a written statement from your doctor, indicating not only when your injury occurred, and when you started treatment for that injury, but also how long your recovery is estimated to take.
Proving lost wages if you are self-employed
This can be a bit trickier. Freelancers, part-time employees, workers in tip-based industries, and independent contractors may encounter greater challenges in proving lost wages. If your work isn’t necessarily steady – or if you’ve been a little reluctant to inform Uncle Sam about the full extent of your tips – then your attorney may need to rely on things like:
- Copies of 1099s
- Copies of paid or outstanding invoices
- Copies of previous years’ tax returns
Again, you should ask your doctor about writing a letter regarding the dates of your injury, when you started treatment, and your estimated recovery.
Recovering compensation for future lost earning capacity
A car crash that leaves you with a long-lasting or permanent disability that inhibits your ability to earn for an open-ended period of time may leave you eligible to recover damages for lost earning capacity.
You can recover these damages even if you are currently able to work, but your disability reduces your ability to earn the level of income you did prior to your injury. General loss of stamina and chronic pain often count as disabling injuries.
This additional evidence may include the testimony of an economic or financial expert witness to calculate your estimated future earning capacity had your disabling injury not occurred. Any signed contracts or future delivery of services you are currently unable to continue due to your injury may also bolster your claim. If you hadn’t been injured, you’d still be working on those projects, so the income you would have earned should be included in your totals.
Recovering lost wages after a fatal car crash
Under Tennessee law, the surviving spouse (or, if the other spouse has died, the surviving children) may also make a claim for lost wages in a wrongful death lawsuit. You can make a claim for any wages lost between the time your loved one was injured and the time he or she died, as well as any future loss of income. This will likely be calculated by how long your loved would could have reasonably been expected to work, minus expenses.
EXAMPLE: Your 45-year-old spouse was a teacher, and was planning on retiring at 65. She earned $50,000 a year. Your annual household expenses are approximately $22,000. Assuming your late spouse’s salary stayed the same, and you split the expenses evenly, she would have contributed $39,000 per year to the household. ($50,000 – $11,00 = $39,000).
At $39,000 a year for 20 years, your spouse would have contributed $780,000 worth of income, or wages, for the remainder of her working life.
If you were hurt in a Nashville car accident and haven’t been able to work, you want a Gladiator on your side. At Rocky McElhanney Law Firm, we fight to get you all the compensation you need. To set up a free, initial consultation, call us today at 615-425-2500, or fill out our contact form. From our offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Knoxville, we serve injured victims throughout Tennessee.