If you have been injured in a car collision in Oregon or Washington, you may have a claim for lost income the injuries caused. The straight forward case looks like this:
- You are injured in a collision
- Your doctor takes you off work for two weeks
- Had you been at work, you would have made $X.00
- Your claim is for $X.00
It does not matter if you used sick time or paid time off when you missed work. You would not have used those benefits but for the fact that someone ran into you, causing an injury. And, you can make this claim even if your insurance company provided a disability benefit.
We see a lot of cases like this, but the more serious the injury, or the more unusual the employment, lost income claims become more involved.
With a serious injury, there may be life changing consequences, like not being able to return to your job, or not being able to work at all. This requires us not only to document lost past lost income, but future losses.
Self employed clients are dealing with seasonal and market trends, and their lost income may not be so obvious. We may need to take a different approach, or have someone provide some expertise in documenting a business owner's loss because of an injury.
Future Lost Income
Predicting the future can be difficult, but with the right information, and economist may be able to help us determine lost future earnings from a serious injury. Many factors come into play, including past earnings, our client's skill set, whether they are able to adapt to other work, and their efforts to find some other kind of work. Economists will also consider the value of money over time.
Keep in mind that anyone who is injured and suffers a loss must "mitigate" their damages. To mitigate is to minimize the loss. If an injury keeps somebody from pursuing their prior work, they have a responsibility under the law to do their best to minimize their loss and find work they can physically perform. When an injured person finds other work, he or she still may claim the difference in income because of the injury’s permanent impact on work ability.
A common defense to future lost income claims is the argument for "present value." If somebody is making a claim for lost income over the next twenty years, for example, it does not necessarily mean that the injured person should recover the full future lost income. Instead, the injured person may be only entitled to the money that, if set aside in a savings account, with earn enough interest over the next twenty years to equal the total future lost income. This is referred to as the "present value" of the lost income. The argument is that if you compensate a person for future lost earnings by paying the total amount up front, that person could earn interest on that money, and will be over-compensated. Often, economists are retained as expert witnesses to calculate the present value of the future lost income claim, and account for the impact of inflation on the cost of money.
Lost Earning Capacity Distinguished
Claims for lost earning capacity, or future lost earning capacity differs from a claim for lost income. Instead, it is more accurately described as a claim for the future inability to do certain kinds of work. Many of our clients work in physically demanding occupations on a seasonal basis, and a serious injury has taken away the ability to pursue that job opportunity. There are also cases where somebody might not even be employed when they were injured, but because of their injury, other work opportunities have been taken away. Because of the many ways someone can suffer a loss of earning capacity, the law is somewhat flexible in presenting a claim for lost earning capacity. Still, lost earning capacity claims can be in challenging.
Self-employed folks face unique challenges in documenting lost income. Self-employed clients often pour their heart and soul into making a business work, and build “good will” into the business. Sometimes, the lost income may be documented with the increased expense of having to contract out or hire additional help. In other cases, the lost income may be missed business opportunities. This is another area where experts may be called into to calculate the actual impact to our injured self-employed client.
As with any claim for damages, there must be a direct connection between the lost income and the injury or disability. Defense attorneys and insurance adjusters commonly argue that the lost self-employment income claims are speculative, or occurred for other reasons, like normal business cycles or “market conditions.”
If you have suffered an injury and have questions about documenting a lost income claim, contact us. We have helped many people with lost income claims as part of their personal injury case.