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Recovering Lost Earnings in a Suit After a Motor Vehicle Crash?

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who wants to know what damages you can get if you’re unable to work following a car crash?

Let’s say you’re in a car accident that leaves you so injured that you’re unable to work for several weeks or months or maybe a year.

Can you be compensated for those lost wages? The answer is yes.

Earnings losses are typically calculated by first looking at your average weekly or monthly earnings before the crash. Then those average earnings are measured against the amount of time that you are deemed medically unable to work.

In other words, average earnings times the amount of time you have lost from work equals earnings lost.

The calculation can become very complex if you own your business or rent or purchase equipment that is part of your work.

For example, what if you’re a truck driver and lease or own a truck, but you can no longer operate it? Obviously, part of your pre-injury earnings would be your labor. But, to make money off your labor, you need the truck to drive.

If you can’t drive the truck because of an injury, you could pay someone to operate it for you. But what if you are in a coma and can’t hire someone to drive the truck?

Here is another wrinkle, what if the truck is damaged in the crash and cannot be operated? You then are losing the value of your labor, and you are losing the value supplied by the truck.

In most cases, you can recover for lost earnings and loss of what could be earned if you hired out the truck for others to use.

See how the calculations can become very complex?

What if you’re unable to return to work in the old type of work you were doing before you got hurt but can return to work in some other job?

Maybe you earn less in the new job, but at least you can earn something.

Well, the law does require that you try to work even if it’s in a less valuable earnings capacity, so to speak.

For example, let’s say you are a concert violinist. You earned $60,000 a year but no longer can play violin due to a permanent hand injury. However, you can earn $40,000 a year by giving lessons to violin students.

In this situation, an injured person can get compensation for the difference from what you would typically earn compared to what you are restricted from making due to your injury. In the violinist’s case, the difference would be $20,000.00 a year.

The difference in earnings loss due to an injury that is not totally incapacitating is called loss of earning capacity damages.

In other words, you can get compensated for lost earnings capacity just like you can be compensated for lost earnings.

Sometimes an economic expert must calculate lost earnings or lost earning capacity because the calculations are very complex.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions.

You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”