When someone is injured through the negligence of another person or an entity such as a corporation or municipality, the attorney for the victim pursues a claim for compensation against the negligent party. The compensation can include reimbursement for lost wages resulting from the victim being unable to work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a staggering $33 billion in lost earnings resulted from motor vehicle accidents occurring in the last year for which such statistics are available.
If you have been injured in an accident and could not work or were restricted in the number of hours your doctor allowed you to work or the duties you could perform, you might have a lost wages claim against the party whose negligence caused your injuries.
Being proactive by gathering documentation and evidence to prove your claim for reimbursement can improve your chances of recovering the amount to which you are entitled. Here are a few tips to help you maximize your compensation.
Include all forms of compensation you lost
A lost wages claim made on your behalf as an accident victim should include all forms of compensation. In addition to the amount you receive each payday from your employer, your claim for damages could also include any of the following:
- Bonuses: Many companies have bonus programs, particularly for employees in sales positions. If your employer has such a program in place and losing time from work caused you to miss out on earning a bonus, you can claim it in your demand for reimbursement. You must have records showing you were on track to meet the sales quota or other criteria your employer set for receiving a bonus. This proof could be a letter from your employer showing where you were at toward meeting the goal at the time of the accident.
- Sick days: If you used sick days during your recovery from your injuries, you are entitled to request reimbursement of the value of each of the days you lost. Again, a letter from your employer or other documentation showing the number of sick days you accrued and how many you used should be obtained to support your claim. This would also hold true for vacation days you had to use while out of work.
- Commissions: When you are a worker receiving commissions in addition to or in lieu of a salary or wages, you should be prepared to show tax returns or records from your employer to document how much you earned last year. You should also gather appointment books or call logs to prove how the inability to work reduced the number of contacts you had with customers, restricted your ability to canvas new leads, and limited your ability to earn commissions.
Proving lost wages
Simply because you are a salaried or hourly-wage employee does not mean you do not have to gather documentation to prove your claim. The first thing your attorney needs is proof that you could not work. You should get the following documents and have them with you for your first meeting with your attorney, if possible:
- A letter from your doctor: The doctor treating you for your injuries should describe them in detail and include the treatment you received and the prescription medications you were prescribed. The letter should explain the length of the recovery time and the type of work, if any, you could perform. Being allowed to work with limitations could support a lost wages claim if the number of hours you worked or the type of work you could perform paid less than you would have ordinarily earned.
- A letter from your employer: Your employer should include a description of your job and the activities it requires you to perform. It should have a breakdown of how you are compensated and a statement showing what you earned during the 12-month period immediately preceding the accident. The letter must include the dates on which you missed work because of the accident or any days you worked with limitations imposed by your doctor.
- Police report: A copy of a police report of the accident is the best evidence of details of how and when the accident happened and supports the information contained in the letters you obtain from your employer and doctor.
Other documents you should gather to help your attorney prove your claim for lost wages include:
- W-2 forms for the year before the accident and up to the current year.
- State and federal tax returns for one year prior to the accident and up to the current year.
- Paystubs going back at least 12 months prior to the accident and continuing up to the present.
Some insurance companies use a wage verification form. If the insurance company involved in your claim uses such a form, have your employer complete it, but it is also helpful to get the previously described letter as additional support for your lost wages claim.
Self-employed accident victims
The owner of a business or anyone who does not receive a steady paycheck is entitled to make a claim for reimbursement for the loss of income suffered as a result of an accident. Your accountant can provide you with financial statements and accounts receivable records you can use in conjunction with your tax returns to prove a loss of income attributable to the accident.
It doesn’t pay to exaggerate your claim
Providing your attorney with accurate information about your lost wages claim or loss of income will improve your chances of obtaining a favorable settlement or verdict. The attorneys and insurance companies working on behalf of the parties against whom you are making your claim are investigating the accident and gathering evidence to support their position. Being honest about your losses and the injuries you suffered avoids the possibility of the other parties producing evidence to contradict it.