Can you claim lost wages in your Virginia car accident case. And, if so, how do you prove them?

If you were in a Virginia car accident, Virginia allows you to claim multiple elements of damages in your claim. One such element are lost wages that were the result of the crash.  However, you must make sure that you can prove your lost wages, the court won’t simply take your word for it.

You need to establish that your lost wages were caused by the accident.

Proving causation means that you have to establish that you couldn’t earn income because of the crash.  So, if you suffered an ankle sprain that prevented you from being on your feet, but you work from home at the computer, you must demonstrate why you couldn’t work.  Stated another way, you can’t just use the accident as an excuse not to work.

Additionally, establishing that you were actually working with income at the time of the crash is important. So, if you were just “thinking” about getting a job, but not actually working when the crash happened, establishing lost wages will be difficult.

How to prove the actual number of lost wages?

This will depend on the type of work you do and how you get paid.  If you have a set schedule and an hourly rate, figuring out the actual amount you lost should be simple math.  For example, if you lost 80 hours of work and you were paid $20 per hour, just do the multiplication.

For you self-employed individuals or if you get paid on commission, establishing the actual value of your lost wage will be more difficult.  While there’s no exact way to do this, we’d typically look back to prior years’ earnings.  If you’re able to establish a consistent prior income, you can then attempt to use that to extrapolate the amount of income you lost due to the crash based upon the amount of time you missed.

What documents or other evidence do I need?

Again, the court (and/or insurance company) won’t simply take your word for it.  To maximize your chances of establishing lost wages, here’s some documents and other evidence we think you should start organizing:

  • Prior tax returns (3 years);
  • Prior W2s (3 years) and supporting pay stubs;
  • References from managers and co-workers who can corroborate your prior work ethic and earnings;
  • Calendars of missed time that correspond with your claimed lost wages;
  • Communications with your employer discussing your need for time off and efforts to get back to work;
  • Prior awards, certifications, and other documents demonstrating the value you provided at work.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. And what you need will depend on the amount of lost wages you are claiming. The greater the amount of money you’re asking for, the more likely the insurance company will ask for more documenation to corroborate the claim.

What if I have to change jobs, and actually make more money. But I preferred my old job better?

In the past, I’ve represented individuals that had jobs they enjoyed, but had to stop due to the crash.  Indeed, those jobs actually paid less than the jobs the obtained after the accident because their injuries prevented them from doing their former jobs.

One example was I represented a bread delivery man who loved his job because he socialized with shop owners.  As a result of the crash, he injured his back and had to work in the corporate office at a desk.  His income actually went up, but he hated what he was doing.

Given the circumstances, he had a “loss of earning capacity” claim, which was essentially the loss of choice to do what he wanted for a living. 

No, this article isn’t everything.

If you have a significant lost wage claim, we would urge you to speak to an attorney. It can be complex to establish your lost wages.  And the more significant the claim, the more the insurance company will fight it.  While this article is intended to provide you useful information, you’ll need to work with your attorney to maximize the chances of being properly compensated for your lost wages.

Still have questions?

Make sure to check out our Personal Injury & Criminal Defense Practice Pages where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have.  James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews.  Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.