Georgia Law Regarding Lost Wages/Income in Injury Lawsuits
can i recover damages for future loss of earning capacity?
As a trial lawyer handling serious injury cases in Georgia, I am frequently asked by clients whether they will be able to recover the income they lost as a result of an injury. Not surprisingly, when someone is seriously injured, he or she may miss significant time from work and, perhaps, be unable to ever return to work. For most families, the loss of a wage-earner’s income is extremely difficult to bear. Fortunately, in connection with injury lawsuits, Georgia law allows the injured party to recover, among other things, the past and future income which has and will be lost.
In addition, Georgia law allows for the recovery of what is known as a loss of earning capacity. As the name implies, this type of damage refers to the loss of someone’s ability to earn his or her living or, in other words, the loss of the capacity to work.
There is an important distinction between lost wages and loss of earning capacity. Generally, lost wages can be quantified, both in terms of how much was lost in the past and how much will be lost in the future. For example, if you make $5,000 per month and missed 2 months of work because of your accident, your past lost wages would be $10,000. (You do not have to discount the amount for taxes under Georgia law). If, at the time of trial, the jury is told that it is likely that you will miss an additional 1 year of work because of your accident, your future lost wages would be $60,000 (12 months x $5,000 per month). Lost wages fall within the category of “special damages” under Georgia law. The name is a bit of a misnomer–there isn’t anything “special” or complex about a lost wage claim. Rather, “special damages” under Georgia law are those which can be assigned a specific numeric value. (Another category would be medical bills–if after a trucking accident your medical bills are $57,546, you can seek that exact amount as part of your “special damages”).
Loss of earning capacity falls under the category of “general damages” – in other words, these sorts of damages are not quantifiable in terms of a particular number. Rather, someone’s loss of earning capacity goes more to the mental state/pain & suffering component of the claim. Specifically, the jury can award whatever figure they feel is reasonable to compensate someone for the loss of the ability to earn a living. In sum, regardless of how much money someone made or would have made, it is “worth” something that an injured person can no longer earn a living as he or she could before the injury–just how much is up to the jury.
Don’t wait. Contact Andrew Goldner, your experienced lost wages attorney and wage claims lawyer in Atlanta today to gain any loss of earnings compensation that you deserve.
Lost Wages FAQs
Dealing with Lost Income Due to Injury
One of the worst parts about being injured due to someone else’s negligence is its potential impact on your livelihood. There are many jobs that aren’t able to be performed if you have any kind of serious injury. Even a job as simple as delivering pizzas can be impossible with, say, a broken ankle.
Being unable to work can have a devastating effect on your family. Your insurance may be able to cover some of your bills, but you’re more than likely going to fall behind on some payments — and you may even struggle to put food on the table. An Atlanta personal injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve after an injury, including lost wages.
Frequently Asked Questions About Lost Wages
How can I prove lost wages?
Lost wages are considered economic damages. This means it’s possible to put a proveable dollar amount on what you’ve lost. However, you will need to prove the wages you’ve claimed to have lost. The good news is, lost wages are generally easy to prove.
First, keep track of any medical documentation that states you have work restrictions. Your doctor needs to put down in writing that you can’t work, and for how long these restrictions will be in place. Make sure you and your employer have a copy of this documentation for your records.
Second, keep track of your missed days and your paystubs. Make a list of all the time you have to miss due to your injury, even if it’s just a few hours for a doctor’s appointment. Your paystubs will also provide concrete evidence of lost wages. Comparing your pay stubs before versus after the accident will show the dollar amount of your lost wages.
If you are forced to take extended time away from work, your tax records can also provide useful proof of lost wages. Finally, get a lost wage certification from your employer. This document shows exactly how much time you’ve missed from work, and your normal wages.
What if I’m self-employed?
Being self-employed does make proving lost wages tricker, but it can be done. Your best option is to hire an accountant who can help you prove what your wages normally are versus what your income is after the accident.
Though paystubs and documentation from your employer does make recovering lost wages easier, strong documentation of lost wages (especially if you’re paid the relatively same amount every pay period) can help you prove damages if you’re self-employed.
Can I include sick leave and vacation pay in my lost wages?
If you get injured in a way that leaves you unable to work, you may use up your vacation days and sick days to make sure you still get paid. However, just because you’re getting paid by using up those days doesn’t mean you can’t recover lost wages for those days.
Consider this: If you hadn’t been injured, you would’ve used up your sick days and vacation days at another time. As such, being forced to use those days is considered the same thing as losing your wages altogether.
But, to recover lost wages for those days, you will still need to show the time you missed because of the accident, and how much money you would’ve made during that time.
What are lost opportunities?
Your wages aren’t the only thing you might lose because of an injury. You might also miss out on future opportunities for greater income. However, proving these “lost opportunities” can be difficult to prove. It comes down to a few different factors, such as age, industry, potential for promotion, etc.
Insurance adjusters will look at these different factors to calculate lost potential income. They may raise the compensation they offer based on lost opportunities. However, they may not do so accurately or in a way that will provide you the full compensation you deserve. An Atlanta personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether the settlement offered by your insurance company is fair.
Law Offices of Andrew Goldner, LLC
Phone: (404) 869-1580