David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
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How to Find Lost Earnings

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Serious injuries lead to serious medical expenses, not to mention serious pain, discomfort and stress. When your injuries cause you to miss work, you have the right to recoup the earnings you lost while treating or recovering from your injuries. And this includes more than just your salary.

Lost income includes not only wages you would have earned if you hadn't gotten injured, but also any additional compensation, such as commission, you would have earned on top of your salary.

Lost compensation includes additional financial benefits of your employment and what you have the capacity to earn on top of your salary. This includes sick and vacation days, paid holidays, personal days, bonuses, and other perks.

The most effective way to prove you've suffered an injury serious enough to keep you away from work is to get written proof from your doctor. A doctor's narrative includes an account of your injuries, your diagnosis, and a prognosis for recovery. The report must also include prescribed treatment and how long you should take off from work. If the doc says you need to take two weeks off, you can collect two weeks pay plus any additional lost compensation.

Not all of us have typical, salaried jobs. Here are a few "what if's" that can come into play when arguing for lost income and what you can recoup.

• What if I have sick leave? You can still collect lost income. You used that sick leave. You shouldn't have to lose it.

• What if I'm self-employed? Usually we look at a client's IRS Schedule C for the year before the accident. Using that information, we calculate weekly earnings and use that figure for the disability period.

• What if I'm unemployed, but I was supposed to start a new job at the time I got injured? We can get in touch with your prospective employer and get a letter that states the amount of income you would have lost during the time of injury and recovery.

• What if I'm unemployed and looking for a job? "Loss of earning capacity" comes into play here. We would have to show, based on your past track record, that you have a history of earning money, and that it is reasonable to predict that you would have found employment had it not been for the injury.

Note: Insurance companies will usually argue that we can't collect "speculative damages." Records such as W2s, a Schedule C, 1099s, a record of past employment and earnings, and/or a letter from a prospective employer all help the jury determine that you likely lost earnings because of your injury.

• What if I'm injured and my spouse takes off work to care for me? In this case, we measure damages not by what your spouse earns and his/her income missed, but what it would have cost to hire a licensed vocational nurse or some other type of formal caregiver.

As with medical expenses and other types of damages, the more records you have, the better. To make sure you recoup the maximum amount of lost income and compensation, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon after your accident as possible.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
2201 Broadway
Suite 506
Oakland, CA 94612

Phone: 925-308-6484
Fax: 510-893-2701
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