What Are Lost Wages in a Personal Injury Case?

lost wages

Personal injury cases are matters of civil law, and specifically a type of “tort,” which means it’s a legal action arising from a wrongful act (often negligence) that results in liability.

The purpose of any personal injury case, whether it’s resolved as a claim filed with an insurance company or a lawsuit filed in civil court, is to ensure wrongdoers are held financially accountable for the damages they cause victims (and sometimes their loved ones). If, for example:

  • You’re struck by an impaired motorist in a drunk driving accident, a personal injury case allows you to recover losses caused by the collision and your injuries;
  • You’re injured in a construction accident involving a contractor who violates the safety laws, a personal injury case would allow you to seek compensation for resulting losses.

Exactly what accident victims and their loved ones may be eligible to recover in a personal injury case is always a case-specific matter. Every accident and injury are unique, and their impact on the lives of victims will always vary. Generally, victims of personal injury have the right to seek financial compensation for their economic damages (such as medical bills and loss of earnings) and non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering).

If an injury causes a victim to miss work, lose out on wages and benefits they would have otherwise earned, or potentially lose wages and benefits in the future, victims can seek recovery of these losses as well.

Recovering Lost Wages

“Lost wages” are a form of economic damages claimed in many personal injury cases. While not every victim will have grounds for such a claim, or a substantial amount of lost wages, they’re commonly recovered in cases where victims suffer actual physical injuries that interfere with their ability to work and earn wages. Because recovering full compensation for lost wages isn’t an easy task, experienced lawyers can help victims navigate the steps they’ll need to take, which may include:

  • Gathering of evidence, documentation, and records of earnings, such as tax records;
  • Working with vocational rehabilitation and economic experts who can provide supporting opinions and testimony;

Car Accident Claims & Serious Injury Threshold

In New York, there is a unique law which applies to victims injured in a motor vehicle accident. While car accident victims can seek an initial reimbursement of their lost wages (and medical bills) through their no-fault insurance coverage, those policies have limits (typically $50,000) and only pay 80% of a victim’s income for up to $2,000 per month.

For many victims, that just isn’t enough – which is why victims with economic damages exceeding the limits of no-fault coverage can seek a recovery of economic damages above those limits (again, usually $50,000). Also, those with injuries that meet New York’s “serious injury” threshold (Insurance Law § 5102(d)) can seek recovery for pain and suffering. A serious injury may include, aside from death, any:

  • Fracture
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Dismemberment
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system
  • Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
  • Non-permanent medically-determined injury or impairment which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment

How Much are My Lost Wages?

There are numerous factors which can impact the likelihood and scope of a recovery for lost earnings. First and foremost is whether you were employed and earning wages at the time of their accident. If so, the scope of your damages will depend on the amount of work you missed from the time of the accident to the date of the final settlement or verdict and whether you are still out of work at the time of the settlement or verdict.

Victims who are able to return to work following their accident, may still be able to seek compensation for their “past” lost wages, those lost after the accident as a result of the accident, but before they returned to work. However, not every victim is able to return to work, such as those with serious injuries.

When a victim is expected to have ongoing wage losses after the resolution of a case, they can seek a recovery of their “future” lost wages. This can be a more substantial task, and may require the assistance of medical and financial experts who can testify to a victims’ prognosis and the impact their injuries have on their ability to work (lost earning potential), as well as earnings and benefits they would have been expected to make and receive had they not been injured in this accident.

Many factors go into the calculation of future lost wages, some of which include:

  • Whether a victim’s injuries are permanent or likely to resolve at a later time;
  • The scope of a victim’s injuries or disabilities;
  • Whether a victim is able to perform other types of work (i.e. physical ability, education, resources, etc.);
  • The nature of the victim’s work and their amounts of pay prior to an accident;
  • The estimated age of retirement for the victim;
  • The loss of the value of benefits a working victim would have enjoyed (i.e. Social Security, health insurance, paid holidays, retirement contributions);
  • The amount of work you missed after your accident;
  • Benefits you were receiving or contributing to prior to your accident, such as health insurance and/or union pension or annuity;
  • Whether you filed tax returns and paid taxes for the income made prior to being out of work from the accident;
  • How consistent your earnings were before the accident;

Questions? Our New York City Injury Lawyers Can Help!

The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., has been fighting for injured victims and families across New York City since 1983. Our team knows the immense financial toll of preventable accidents and injuries and is committed to helping clients seek full recovery of their damages – including any lost wages and future earnings. To discuss your case and rights with an attorney, contact us.

For over 40 years, David H. Perecman has distinguished himself as one of the leading personal injury lawyers in New York City, championing all types of personal injury cases including construction accidents, premises accidents, automobile accidents, and medical malpractice, along with employment discrimination, false arrest, and civil rights cases.