When a car accident causes serious injuries, you could be hurt and left out of work for a while. Some car crash victims can return to their jobs after a recovery period, but others are left with ongoing medical complications and disabilities that could leave them out of work on a long-term basis. Some even face permanent disabilities and job loss.
To recover compensation for lost wages after a car crash in Maryland, you can often file an insurance claim or a lawsuit. Insurance claims sometimes do not cover your injury case in full – if the insurance company is even willing to settle the case. In a lawsuit, your attorney can present evidence of present and future lost earnings, potentially resulting in maximum compensation.
For a free case review, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras’ Maryland car accident attorneys today at (301) 381-4848.
Claiming Lost Wages in a Maryland Car Accident Case
When you are injured in a car accident, you could be entitled to any damages related to the crash. Even if your accident was unrelated to your job, your inability to work after a serious car crash could still result in lost wages. These damages can be claimed as part of an insurance claim or a lawsuit. Both are often filed after a crash, but both types of claims are more effective with the help of an experienced lawyer.
When you file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver, you could be entitled to get damages for lost wages in addition to medical bills. However, insurance companies only have to pay claims when there is sufficient proof that their driver was indeed at fault. Additionally, they must only pay the damages they recognize as sufficiently proven.
If the insurance company in your case is resistant to your claims, they could deny that their driver is at fault altogether. This would mean denying your claim – which you can appeal. Insurance companies might also accept your claim but refuse to pay future lost earnings or pay only a portion of your lost wages.
Our Baltimore car accident lawyers can work to drive up the insurance payout by providing additional evidence of your injuries and lost wages. However, at the end of the day, leaving your case up to the whims of an insurance adjuster might result in insufficient compensation.
Sometimes drivers have optional first-party benefits on their insurance policy, such as PIP coverage. These policies often pay for medical care and lost wages but might not pay the full value of these costs. Speak to an attorney about claiming damages above and beyond the limits of your policy by filing a third-party claim against the at-fault driver.
When you file a lawsuit, the decision of who is at fault and how much your case is worth is left to a judge and jury instead of the insurance company. The judge and jury will often look carefully at your evidence and take it all in when considering how much your case is worth. This could result in something closer to full compensation for your lost wages.
At trial, your lawyer can present evidence of wages you have already lost and wages you might lose in the future. Insurance companies might not be willing to accept some of this evidence, but the court will weigh it carefully when deciding your case.
Ultimately, the fact that a lawsuit is on the horizon can often pressure insurance companies to settle. Filing a lawsuit does not necessarily mean that you will have to go to trial, but it does give you the option to do so if a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached. Most lawsuits do settle before trial, and our attorneys will seek to help you settle your case at a fair value.
Types of Income You Can Recover in a Maryland Car Accident Claim
The way in which our Maryland car accident lawyers calculate damages for your lost income depends on the nature of your income. While lots of people work typical 9 to 5 jobs for hourly wages or a salary, many others earn income through less conventional jobs.
Income on W2s
As mentioned before, lots of car accident victims work regular jobs for an hourly wage or annual salary. These wages are typically reported on W2 forms for tax purposes. We may need W2 forms from the year you were injured and other recent years to establish how much income you normally earn and how much you earned after your car accident. By comparing W2 forms, we can show the court how much income you might have earned had it not been for the car accident putting you out of commission.
We can also examine your pay stubs and your employer’s payroll record to help us prove how much income you lost. These records can show us exactly how much money you made per pay period before your injuries, allowing us to calculate your losses more accurately. For example, if your recent paychecks show you earned $1,200 per pay period, and you were out of work for 12 pay periods (i.e., about 6 months if you are paid every other week), then your lost wages should amount to $14,400.
Self-employed people are different from typical employees because there are no W2 forms to prove income. Instead, self-employed people must maintain this information themselves in their business records. This can make calculating lost income tricky, but not impossible.
If you are self-employed, your business records are necessary to prove how much income you lost after a car accident. This can be challenging if your work is not steady and subject to economic ebbs and flows. However, records of past work and the income earned in years past may shed light on the potential income you lost after a car accident.
A good place to start is your tax returns. Your tax returns can tell us how much money you earn each year. We should also look at records regarding regular monthly or quarterly intervals. Suppose the nature of your self-employment means you earn most of your income during the summer months, and the rest of the year is relatively light for work. If you could not work during the summer after a car accident, your damages for lost income might be greater because those were your prime earning months.
If you work under contract, a car accident might not just leave you unable to go back to work, but you might be unable to fulfill the terms of your work contract. In such a case, you might not just lose income from the weeks or months you could not work, but you might lose the value of the entire contract.
Talk to your attorney about what kind of contract work you normally do. How many contracts do you typically accept in a given period? How much is a typical contract worth to you? How many contracts did you likely lose out on because of the car accident? Are you going to miss out on more in the future?
Your damages for lost income might be quite high depending on the answers to these questions. Depending on your work, a single contract might be very lucrative, and being unable to fulfill this contract might cost you big time.
Gig Worker Income
The workforce has evolved drastically in recent years, and gig work is an increasingly popular choice of employment. Gig work or freelance work is often short-term, and gig workers tend to move from job to job relatively quickly. As such, gig work can be unpredictable, so determining the value of lost wages may be especially challenging.
Common examples of freelance or gig workers include writers, graphic designers, construction workers, and other workers for temporary or part-time positions. Since the amount of money a worker makes from each job might vary, we need evidence of past work to establish your average income. For example, if you work as a freelance graphic artist, we need to see what kind of work you typically perform, how much you earn from each project, and how many projects you do regularly.
Calculating and Proving Lost Wages in Maryland Car Accident Cases
Courts and insurance companies need proof of your injuries’ worth before you can get paid. When it comes to proving how much your lost wages are worth, there are a few common types of evidence you will use to prove your income and how much you lost on account of your car accident injuries. Additional evidence is often needed to satisfactorily prove future lost wages and lost earning capacity.
Wages During Recovery
If your injury kept you laid up or unable to work for a limited period, and you have now recovered enough to return to work, proving your lost wages is somewhat simple. Generally, you will need evidence of your wages before the accident. Combining that with proof of how long you were unable to work will allow your Annapolis car accident lawyers to multiply the lost wages by the time missed at work.
Often, you will need a medical expert’s testimony to prove when you were truly able to return to work.
Reduced Earning Capacity
If you have returned to work but were forced to take on reduced tasks or a lower-paying position, you could be entitled to damages for the reduced earnings. While you might still be working and receiving income, it isn’t as much as you used to make. Our lawyers can provide pay stubs and financial statements to show the difference between your former wages and your current wages and include that as part of your lost wages claim.
Future Lost Wages
If your injuries involve a disability that makes it impossible to return to work at your current level, you will need additional evidence to prove your lost future earnings. Medical and financial experts will be needed to testify about your limitations, how they affect your earnings, and what your wages would have been going forward without the injuries. Often, these calculations are complex, but our Ocean City car accident lawyers can present this evidence as part of your injury claim.
How Insurance Might Affect Your Available Damages for Lost Wages in Maryland Car Accident Lawsuits
Various damages may be offset by insurance. For example, after a car accident, your insurance policy might provide some compensation before you file a lawsuit. However, there are rules to prevent defendants from using a plaintiff’s insurance status to mitigate damages. Ideally, plaintiffs should be able to recover the full extent of their damages regardless of insurance or other sources of compensation.
Collateral Source Rule
Maryland’s collateral source rule is an evidentiary rule that prohibits defendants from introducing evidence of insurance or other sources of payment for damages. Essentially, this bars the defendant from saying that because the plaintiff is insured, the defendant should only have to pay for what insurance did not cover.
The rule is designed to allow plaintiffs to recover the full value of their damages regardless of other sources of compensation. For example, suppose the economic damages in your car accident lawsuit are worth $50,000. Next, suppose that through a combination of auto and health insurance policies, you have already been reimbursed or compensated for $40,000 and paid only $10,000 out of pocket. The collateral source rule requires that your damages award reflects the full $50,000 of your damages, not just the portion to be paid on your own.
Rights of Subrogation
While the collateral source rule prevents defendants from mitigating damages based on things like insurance or other forms of compensation, you generally cannot be compensated for the same damages twice. As such, insurance companies typically have a right of subrogation.
Subrogation is when an insurance company seeks reimbursement for the money they spend covering your damages. For example, if you had first-party benefits on your car insurance that covered a portion of your medical bills after your car accident, and you were awarded damages for those same bills in a lawsuit, your insurance company could seek reimbursement.
Subrogation issues often come up in cases involving medical bills and vehicle damage, as health and auto insurance policies often cover those losses. Lost wages are not typically covered by auto insurance, but they might be under certain policies.
Call Our Maryland Car Accident Attorneys Today
After being involved in a car accident, have our Pasadena car accident lawyers help you with a free case assessment by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (301) 381-4848.