How to Seek Compensation for Lost Income Due to a Car Accident

What happens if you’re unable to work because of your injuries? Can you recover lost wages after a Georgia car accident? The answer is yes, but it may not be as easy as you think. Keep reading to learn more.

Key Points:

  • Under Georgia law, if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence,  you may be entitled to damages for lost income and lost future earnings capacity.
  • Payroll statements, paycheck stubs, bank records, a verification from your employer stating your position and monthly income will provide evidence of your earnings prior to the accident.
  • If your income fluctuates or you had a low income year, your average income may be calculated based on past tax returns.

Can You Recover Lost Wages After A Georgia Car Accident?

Yes. Legally, if you are unable to work because of injuries caused by a car, truck or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled claim and recover the income you have lost.  The law in Georgia allows you to recover both general damages for the pain and suffering from your physical injuries as well as special damages, which includes expenses and lost earnings.

In addition, if you have a lasting injury or a permanent disability caused by the wreck, you are also allowed to make a claim for the future income you would have earned if not for the accident.

How to Recover Current Income Loss Following a Georgia Accident

You may present evidence of your lost pay in your settlement demand to an insurance company in the form of payroll check stubs, diminished bank deposits, and accounting or tax records. Income loss must be accompanied by evidence that you were not able to work, such as an employer verification or doctor’s work excuse

Recovering non-paid medical leave after an auto accident. 

If you are an hourly or commission-paid employee and you miss time from your job as a result of your injuries, you may recover your lost pay.  Your losses can be calculated in several ways, including using your employer’s work schedule, your past paycheck stubs or payroll records, and even banking or income tax records which may show a drop in your income as compared to the time before the wreck. 

What is the best way to prove time missed from work after an accident?

First, it is important that your medical records support the time missed from work.  A doctor’s written work excuse is a strongly recommended way of proving that your time missed from work was necessary. Additionally, a letter or missed work verification form from your employer can prove how much time you missed from your job. Your employer should verify how much your hourly-pay or salary is.

Can I recover sick pay or vacation (PTO) benefits used as a result of an accident?

Yes. Under Georgia law you may be able to claim lost pay even if your employer continued to pay you while you missed time from work.  If your company continued to pay your salary, but you used your sick leave or paid vacation days while you recovered from your injuries, you may have that time reimbursed to you.

Person in wheelchair.
Person in wheelchair.

 For example, it would be unfair to be forced to use up your two weeks of vacation, and be left with no paid time off, because of another driver’s negligence.  If not for the accident, you would have either worked or enjoyed your vacation days at another time.  The daily amount of your salary or other earnings can be calculated based on your current and past payroll records – or using other acceptable ways of determining the amount of this loss.  You may then recover these lost benefits as part of your settlement or lawsuit award.

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Woman worried about loss of income.
Woman worried about loss of income.

How to recover lost future income after a Georgia car accident

Under Georgia law, this is known as a loss of capacity to earn and refers to the loss or reduction in the ability to earn a living. If your injury may result in your inability to work or earn as much money in the future, income projections can be made using medical and economic experts, who can estimate what you will lose by not being able to work.

If the injury results in a complete loss of the ability to work, and this can be proven through medical testimony, a victim may recover an amount equal to the pay that would have been earned in the future.  Likewise, if a victim will be able to work but only on a limited schedule or will have to take an early retirement, this is also compensable.  An attorney, accountant or economist — along with your medical doctors — may be able to calculate the victim’s future losses and present this evidence to the insurance company or to a court.

What if I can work after an accident, but I will earn less?

This is known as diminished or reduced earning capacity. If an accident victim can still work, but only in a more limited way than before the injury, he or she is likely to earn less money in the future.  Personal injury lawyers use functional capacity experts and economists to prove the value lost by not being able to work as much or as long in the future.

Can I use my medical doctor to support a lost future income claim?

Yes. In most cases, future income losses due to diminished earning capacity should also be supported by medical reports from a qualified doctor or physical therapist.  A medical professional may examine the injury victim and write a report detailing the amount of physical capability that has been lost.  Income losses can then be calculated based on the work limitations and restrictions that are related to the lasting or permanent injury.

Can I be compensated if my injury results in the loss of a career?

Yes, if your career ends due to an automobile accident or other injury, you may be able to claim not only the income lost, but the loss of enjoyment of life associated with loss of your chosen profession. 

For example, our law office represented a delivery room nurse who suffered a serious hand injury.  After her car accident the nurse was unable to safely hold infants while working in the maternity ward.  She was forced to end her career as a labor and delivery nurse and find a new career in the medical field.  The loss of the work she cherished was devastating, and we were able to recover a large insurance policy limit as part of her compensation, even though she was able to continue working in a different career.

How Self Employed Injury Victims Can Recover Lost Income

If you are self employed and you’re unable to work because of the injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident, it can be a little more challenging.  But it is still possible to recover the lost income. You may need records provided by your accountant, banking records showing lower revenue deposits, office records showing the drop in receipts and income of your business, income tax records, or all of these items.

Can I recover business losses after a car accident?

It can be challenging, but if you can prove an actual loss or if you had to hire extra workers to replace your efforts, it can be possible. For example, a trucker unable to drive several loads due to an injury may be able to recover the lost load payments, less his or her out of pocket expenses. Or, if a trucker had to hire someone to cover the delivery, the trucker may recover the extra costs involved. Often, this type of income loss can be calculated and recovered using the records of your business.

What is the Best Way to Calculate and Recover Current and Past Lost Pay?

If you are an hourly or salaried employee, your lost wages or income can be based on your actual earnings prior, using company payroll records. You simply add the days, weeks or months missed from work due to your injuries. If you made $4,000 a month and missed three months of work, your lost income would be $12,000.

What is the best evidence of lost past income?

Payroll statements, W-2’s, paycheck stubs and a letter on company letterhead from a supervisor or HR department stating your position and monthly income will provide evidence of your income prior to the accident. If your income fluctuates and you had a low income year, it may be useful to calculate your average income based on several years of tax returns.

After an accident, when will I be paid for my past lost income?

Unfortunately, in most cases you will not recover this income until your case settles.  Legal loans are available, but they can be very expensive and should be used only as a last resort. As a general rule we recommend that most people return to work as soon as they are able to do so, even if this means working under some restrictions. 

In our experience as trial lawyers, courts and jurors view people who return to work as soon as they can more favorably than a person who seems to be taking advantage of the situation by remaining out of work longer than necessary.

Client meeting with lawyer.
Client meeting with lawyer.

What if I lost my job because I could not show up to work for a few weeks?

If you lost your job due to an inability to work after an accident, you may be entitled to be compensated for this as well. Verification from your employer will be necessary, to prove that your job loss was due to a physical inability to work, versus some other reason.

What are the best ways to prove lost wages?

You will want to prove the dollar amount you lost from being unable to work after an accident. Medical records or a report from your doctor taking you out of work or putting limitations on your job will be required. You will also need to prove how much time you missed. Your employer can provide a certification of lost wages or you can keep track of the days you missed from work.

If you missed a very long period of time, or if you will have future income losses due to inability to work as much or at all, your income tax returns, reports from your doctors and a report from an economist may be used to show the amount you would have earned had you not been injured.

How much proof is required for my lost income?

Lost wages and earnings must be proven by the victim with a degree of certainty. The burden of proof is on you, as the person claiming the income loss, to show how much was lost. In Georgia a Court or Jury may not speculate about how much an injury victim lost in the past or will lose in the future.

Although testimony about how much time was missed from a job is allowed, it is best to support your testimony with proper documentation such as paycheck stubs, payroll records and even additional testimony from a supervisor, business owner or human resources director.

What are some defenses to a lost wage claim?

Other things that may be considered when calculating lost wages are the type of work a person did and whether he or she was able to, or will be able to, continue to do that work. Whether a person was capable of being reassigned to other work or retrained for a new job or career, and a person’s age and general condition, could matter. If a person could have done similar work and earned money, but chose not to do so, this could be a defenses in some cases.

- D. Lo
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