Are lost wages part of my claim against the insurance company?
Yes. Lost wages are an item of your special damages. Special damages include dollar amounts that are directly attributable to the accident. For example, your medical bills are part of your special damages. Other items included in your special damages might include:
- mileage to and from the doctor’s office
- parking at the doctor’s office
- potentially lost wages
When it comes to recovering lost wages, there are generally 4 areas of inquiry that need to be looked at before submitting any documentation to the insurance company:
What is the nature and extent of your injuries? If you have soft tissue injuries from a car accident, it is certainly very reasonable to stay out of work for anywhere from a couple of days through a few weeks. If you have soft tissue injuries which are keeping you out of work for months, the insurance company is going to look at your claim with a healthy amount of skepticism.
Is the doctor giving you a work excuse or documenting in the medical records that you should not be working? If yes, you have a much better chance of recovery. If no, then the insurance company may give you credit for some, but definitely not all, of the amount you are claiming.
Did you actually miss the time? Even if you are hurt, and the doctor keeps you out of work but you still work, you will not receive any credit. The economic loss has to actually occur before you are entitled to ask for it to be compensated.
How are you proving the amount? If you are self-employed, it’s problematic. Most folks who are self-employed hire an accountant to try to minimize their tax liability. While this is good come April 15, it is not good when presenting your claim to the insurance company! The insurance will look at the amount you are scheduling as profits and give you that amount on a pro-rata weekly basis. The best way to prove your lost wages is a W-2 or other payroll form you’re your employer indicating how much you were earning at the time of the auto injury.
At Ponton Law, we use a specific lost wages verification form. It has a spot for your employer to fill out, indicating your rate of pay on an hourly or weekly basis, and how much time you actually missed from work. Along with that, we include your last W-2, along with a copy of your last payroll statement. We also try to have the doctor be clear in his notes when keeping you out, or when he does send you back what sort of restrictions may be in place. For example, even if you are cleared to go back to work, he may place you on modified duty or advise you that you should not sit for an extended period of time. As a practical matter, this may result in you being unable to work because your job cannot make those sorts of accommodations.