| Read Time: 4 minutes | Car Accidents
how to claim lost wages from car accident

Were you recently the victim of a severe car crash and found yourself unable to work? One of the most pressing concerns of anyone injured in a car accident is finances.

The injuries you suffer from the collision can leave you temporarily or even permanently unable to return to work.

With mounting medical bills, expenses, and everyday financial obligations, worrying about money is likely at the top of your list of concerns.

You might ask yourself, How long does it take to get lost wages from a car accident? Or who pays for lost wages in a car accident?

Here, we discuss all you need to know about how to claim lost wages from a car accident in California—from what they are and how to prove them in court.

What Are Lost Wages?

Lost wages can include any income or financial benefit you previously received from your employment before your injury. It can go far beyond your weekly or biweekly paycheck. Lost wages can include: 

  • Your regular paycheck (salary or hourly),
  • Overtime pay,
  • Health benefits,
  • Bonuses,
  • Commissions,
  • Retirement contributions,
  • Sick, personal, vacation days,
  • Self-employment income, and
  • Any other lost benefit (e.g., free meals, gas, or car allowance).

While lost wages can be substantial, it generally refers to past income you no longer obtained because of your injury. In other words, the money lost from the date of your injury until your case settles or proceeds to trial. 

Lost Anticipated Earnings 

Often more substantial than your lost paychecks is your lost earning capability. Lost anticipated earnings refers to income you cannot earn in the future because of your injury.

In California, you may seek compensation for your lost earning capacity. However, determining the accurate amount of compensation can be challenging because there is no definitive formula for calculating someone’s lost earning capacity.

Instead, the amount of compensation you are entitled to will depend on several factors, including:

  • Your age,
  • Your typical raises or wage increases,
  • Your company’s bonus structure,
  • Inflation rates, 
  • Changes in the job market,
  • Advancements in technology impacting your profession, and
  • Any promotions or advancement you can reasonably anticipate. 

Many of these factors will be personal to you, and others will depend on external factors. All of them can be difficult to estimate accurately, especially without utilizing an expert.

In addition to lost wages and earning capacity, you may have lost opportunities because of your accident, such as losing the chance to interview for a new job.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for Lost Wages in California?

In California, you generally have two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit for damages, including lost wages. However, this rule has many exceptions, and you may have less or more time to file your claim.

Speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible is essential to preserving your right to seek lost wages and other compensation. 

Calculating an accurate estimate of lost wages and anticipated lost earning capacity often requires experts such as a forensic accountant or another occupational expert in that field. 

How Are Lost Wages Proven?

As the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you must provide evidence for all your damages, including your lost wages. For lost wages, this is easier said than done, especially when it comes to calculating lost earning capacity.

You will generally need to produce your pay stubs, account summaries, tax returns, or a letter from your employer to prove your lost wages. Your employer can certify your lost wages by providing a detailed letter including relevant information such as:

  • Your job title,
  • When you were hired and how long you have worked there,
  • Your typical work hours,
  • Your salary or rate of pay per hour,
  • Overtime pay rate and how many hours you typically worked overtime in a week,
  • How many hours and days have you missed from work since your accident, and
  • Whether you had to use sick, personal, or vacation days for your injury.

In addition to an employer letter, your medical records are necessary to claim lost wages. Your doctor’s letter can describe in detail your injuries and physical limitations because of those injuries, including:

  • Treatments,
  • Surgeries,
  • Prescriptions, and
  • Therapy and rehabilitation.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all method for proving lost wages. Often, you will need to use a combination of these methods to best establish your lost wages claim.

Who Pays for Your Lost Wages?

If you successfully prove your claim, the defendant or liable party will be responsible for paying your damages, including compensation for your lost wages.

Lost wages are compensatory damages meant to compensate victims for their economic and noneconomic losses, including medical expenses, property damage repair or replacement, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and more. 

How to Seek Lost Wages After a Car Accident?

Typically, after a car accident, you will file an accident claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. You may be able to settle your claim at this early stage.

However, the insurance company often offers a less-than-fair settlement to entice you to settle your claim and forgo pursuing litigation.

We strongly recommend that you speak with a seasoned attorney before accepting any settlement offer, as insurance companies will seek to pay as little as possible and often offer you nothing for anticipated lost earnings or future medical expenses.

Should you not settle, you can file a civil lawsuit for damages, including lost wages, for your injuries.

Get in Contact with a California Car Accident Lawyer

At Peerali Law, we are a boutique law firm committed to helping our clients get the justice and compensation they deserve. If a car accident renders you unable to work, leave worrying about how to claim lost wages and who will pay them to us.

Let us put our years of knowledge and experience to work for you and your family in fighting for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Kristopher earned his J.D. at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law where he was a member of the Review of Law and Social Justice honors law journal and was awarded several scholastic honors.

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