Car accidents disrupt your entire life — if you suffer a serious injury, you could be recovering for days, weeks, and in some cases months. This means you are likely facing time off from work and losing not only your normal salary, but you may be forced to give up some perks associated with your employment.
Louisiana’s law allows victims of car accidents to file claims for their losses as described in Louisiana Civil Code Title V, Chapter 3, Art. 2315 which includes lost income. Victims should be aware of what constitutes lost wages as well as what documentation is needed to verify their losses.
Understanding Lost Income While Recovering from Car Accident Injuries
When you accept a job, you are accepting more than a salary or hourly wage. Along with the hourly wage or salary, your employer likely offers some additional perks which can be claimed as part of a lost wages claim. Some typical perks and benefits you may be missing out on when you are out of work recovering from your injuries. Some benefits you may be losing include:
Vacation and Sick Days — if you need to take sick or vacation days as part of the time you take off to recover for your injuries, you will not have the benefit of that time in the future. In most cases, you can recover those days in the form of compensation as part of a lost wages claim.
Other Compensable Time Off — many companies offer employees days off including holidays, birthdays, earned comp time, and personal days. If you miss any of these days and are not paid by your company for them, they may be part of a lost wages claim after you suffer an accident injury.
Overtime, Bonuses, and Other Compensation — if you have historically worked overtime hours, received production or sales bonuses, or you could have earned commissions, these amounts may be part of a lost wage claim. Your financial status should not be negatively impacted because you were injured through no fault of your own. Claims should also include any raises or other increases you may have had to forfeit while you were recovering from your injuries.
Employer-Offered Benefits — many employers offer benefits like profit sharing plans, the ability to purchase stock options, and life insurance. During the time you are unable to work, these benefits may be unavailable to you. If this is the case, the economic losses can be included in your lost wage claim.
Matching Contributions — if your employer normally matches your contributions to a company-sponsored retirement fund you are eligible to claim the loss you suffered. In addition, you will be missing out on payroll contributions to Medicaid and Social Security which may also be included in a lost wage claim.
Showing Proof for Wage Loss Claims
It is important to understand every insurance company involved in an accident claim will do everything in their power to minimize the amount of your claim. This is especially true when it comes to lost wages and estimated future lost wages. Therefore, documenting lost wages is critically important. Some ways you can prove your actual losses include:
Full medical disclosure — your physician, and any physician who has treated you for your injuries may be contacted by a personal injury attorney to provide a narrative. This narrative will generally be expected to include information about the time you are going to need to recover prior to returning to work. It should also include the information regarding the injuries you sustained as a result of the accident so the insurance company can see clear proof the time lost has a direct association with the accident. The more detail, including when you can return to work and any restrictions once you do, the better.
Employer statement about income — on the company letterhead the statement should include information about all the income and benefits which were lost while you recovered from your injury. This includes days off for recovery, what income you were entitled to on the day you sustained an injury, information regarding normal hours worked during each pay cycle, and overtime hours you would have normally worked had you been available (based on past overtime).
Employer statement about “bonus” income — any work which may have resulted in bonuses or commissions which you missed out on, information regarding earned time off — sick days, vacation days, holidays, etc. — which you missed out on or had to use while recovering. If your employer offered benefits which were not available during the time you were recovering, those should also be documented. Your attorney can explain this further if necessary.
Those who are self-employed, or who have declared income from tips may need to provide other proof of income to successfully demonstrate their losses for wages. Remember, all financial losses related to your injuries are compensable and your ability to get these amounts compensated may hinge largely on what approach is taken. This is why it is important for victims of a car accident to work with an experienced accident injury lawyer following a car accident.
Getting Legal Help for Lost Wages Claims
Victims of car accidents often believe they can handle negotiations with insurance companies on their own. This is particularly true when they feel the accident was not their fault and the reports obtained from police and others at the scene clearly show the other driver was at fault. However, negotiating with insurance companies on your own is seldom a good idea. Remember, you might be talking to an adjuster or another representative from the company but — they are talking to lawyers.
Insurance company attorneys know the most important thing for the insurance company is saving money on claims. After all, this is how they make money — their clients pay premiums which boost their bottom line, and claims paid out decrease their profit. It is never a good idea to allow an insurance company to dictate the process of filing a claim. You should be working with a legal team who will advocate on your behalf and make sure you get the compensation you are entitled to receive, including lost wages. Contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible so you know your rights. Allow them to work with the insurance company to reach a settlement so you have the best chance of getting the maximum amount of compensation.