How do I make a lost wage claim after a car accident?
A car accident can affect you in many ways, and is often just as financially impactful as it is emotionally and physically traumatizing. There are often many medical bills that have to be paid, and other financial stresses such as a lost car, or the diminished value of the car you just bought. This is only further complicated by the fact that, due to your injuries, you're probably not working - or at the very least, you're not working as much as you were before the accident. All of these parts conspire together to really stress you out.
If you have been involved in a car accident in the DMV that was not your fault, you are entitled to file a claim for your damages. Damages is a legal term that encompasses all of the ways that the car accident has impacted you and every aspect of your life. While the largest single piece of your damages is often the sum-total of your medical expenses, another large portion of your claim is the compilation of the time that you have missed from work (called lost wages or simply, time lost from work).
If you have been involved in an accident, you contact an experienced car accident attorney, and file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. However, it's not as easy as just saying "I missed X days of work." Below, we explain what you need to know about a filing a lost wage claim as part of your larger personal injury claim.
How to Calculate your Time Missed from Work
In order to determine your lost wages, we have to determine exactly how much you make, first. For wage-earning individuals, the formula is pretty easy:
Hours missed x wage = Total Lost Wages
For example: 24 hours missed x $20.00/hour = $480.00
For salaried individuals, the computation is a little different. If you are paid salary, you receive a base pay per year, and perhaps other bonuses such as sales incentives, etc. You have to divide that total number by 2,080, which is the number of working hours every year. This result is what you actually make per hour. Then, this is added into the previous formula:
Salary / 2080 hours = Rate per Hour
For Example: $75,000 per year / 2080 = $36.06/hour
Then: 24 hours missed x $36.06/hour = $865.44
Vacation Pay and Sick Leave Used
If you have missed time from work, and are still getting paid, that does not mean that you don't have a claim for your lost wages. Your sick leave, and your vacation time are things that were earned by you in the regular course of the work, and but for your car accident, you would not have had to use them. Thus, using them represents an element of your damages (something you lost), and it works the same way as your loss wages. If you had to use 20 hours of sick leave, that 20 hours of sick leave is part of what we are going to claim!
Proving your Lost Wage Claim
It is important to remember that a lost wage claim has to be proven, not merely alleged. This means that if you have missed a hundred hours from work after the accident, the insurance company is not going to take our bland assertion of that amount, without some element of evidence that we can utilize to show this.
Perhaps the most effective way of establishing this evidence is to get written documentation from your employer. A simple letter "to whom it may concern," setting out your name your rate of pay in the dates that you missed is going to be enough to at least open a dialogue with the insurance company. We don't need the employer to do the math to reach the final total - we will take care of that. But the outline has to have the foundational elements that will let the insurance company do the math, too. However, without that, things can be much more complicated.
To whom it may concern:
Roberta Smith works for ABC Construction as a foreman. She
averages 40 hours per week, and is paid $36.15 an hour. After
her accident on 5/10/23, she missed 20 hours of work.
- Tom the Manager
However, without that, things can be much more complicated.
Not all employers are set up to do this, however. Some jobs, even mega corporations like McDonald's, are generally not set up to generate official letters on company letterhead at local restaurants.
We can still build the evidence of your time lost, however, by establishing a baseline. We do that by getting copies of your pre-accident pay stubs, as well as your post-accident paystubs. This way we can develop the average of what you worked, and then show what you worked after the accident. The difference between those numbers may become part of your lost wage claim.
Time Lost from Part-Time Jobs
Many people work a part-time job on the side, and some people work two or even three part-time jobs to make ends meet. In this instance, it is not at all difficult to make your lost wage claim. As before, we have to get your pre-accident pay stubs so that we can build an average, based on the times worked before the accident - and then after the accident we use your post-crash paystubs to show that you were not working. The drop in these averages is what will form your lost wage claim relating to the part-time jobs.
Lost Wage Claims for People who are Self-employed
People are self-employed often feel that they don't have a lost wage claim, and that is not true. However, it is difficult, because independent contractors and those who are self-employed do not generally work set hours with set pay schedules. But just because it's complicated, does not mean that we cannot, and will not do it. It is important for us to gather important documentation that will allow us to prove this claim.
We will need documents to build and explore your lost wage clam, such as:
Income tax returns from previous years
Contracts and emails relating to jobs missed or unable to be performed
Medical appointment chronology, and more.
Some self-employed people do ultimately forgo a lost wage claim, unfortunately. This is not because the person is not legitimately self-employed, but because there is not enough proof for us to build a claim that will satisfy an insurance company, or later a judge. Someone who has not claimed everything on their taxes, or has not filed taxes at all, is impairing their ability to file an effective lost wage claim for their car accident later on.
If you are ever unsure of how to put a strong lost wage claim together after a car accident, speak to an experienced team of professionals right away to help you through that process.
Many people get confused about the lost wage claim process, because they think that merely because time is missed after the accident, it is related to the accident. That is not the case! If the doctor holds you out of work for one week, then your claim is for that week. If you decide to take 3 months off, but none of the medical documentation supports that you are unable to work, the insurance company is not going to evaluate that claim. In fact, they may write off your lost wages completely, or they may even deny your personal injury claim entirely, believing that you are lying!
It is always important to avoid any opportunity for the insurance company to impugn your integrity and credibility. This is one of many reasons we tell our clients never to speak to an insurance company without a lawyer.
Time Lost from Work for Uber and Lyft Drivers
Rideshare drivers also have lost wage claims, after they have been involved in accidents that are not their fault. In these instances, it is important for us to do a lot of leg work, however, to be able to prove the time loss to the at-fault insurance company.
We do this by gathering the Uber and Lyft drivers' weekly printouts. Often these payouts are not available as PDFs, but they can be screenshotted so that it includes the name of the driver and also the time period in question. This evidence allows us to build a pre-accident average, and then also track the work after the accident. The difference in these two numbers is the Lost wage claim for an Uber and Lyft driver.
Amazon Delivery Drivers and Lost Wage Claims
Independent Amazon drivers also have lost wage claims, that are evaluated and developed the same way as Uber and Lyft drivers' claims. Of course, Amazon drivers are paid twice per week instead of once, so we build the same evidence, but there is simply twice as much data. It is still something that we have developed a system to do, and that is why we have so much experience and are so successful representing Rideshare drivers and delivery drivers
Contact an experienced car accident attorney today
If you have been involved in an accident, you have the right to file a claim for your damages, and that includes any of the time you've lost from work. Our experience attorneys and paralegals help clients throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC, to get the compensation they deserve. Call Blaszkow Legal now for a free consultation anywhere in the DMV.