Car accidents have different effects on the lives of their victims. You may discover that the nature and scope of your injuries combined with the emotional trauma you experience prevent you from returning to work. Whether you have to exhaust your personal days and sick days or you are simply out of work altogether while you recover, an experienced Virginia Beach car accident lawyer can gather evidence such as pay stubs and bank records to help you pursue maximum damages for your lost income along with your other damages.
What Are Considered Lost Wages?
Lost wages are a form of economic damage. The term refers to the income and benefits that you are no longer able to earn following a car accident. Some examples of lost wages are:
- Hourly pay
- Sick days, vacation days, and other paid time off
- Health benefits
- Retirement benefits including employer contributions
- Stock options
If you can prove the income that you would have earned from your job had it not been for your car accident, you can likely collect compensation. Many Virginia Beach personal injury clients are surprised to learn that they can recover their lost wages even if they collected vacation pay or sick leave pay. The reason this is compensable is because you have depleted your vacation or sick pay, so it’s recoverable just as if you had no vacation or sick leave cover you.
Persons who are paid commissions have special challenges, but as long as some reasonable track record exists, our attorneys will reconstruct a reasonable basis for claiming lost commissions also.
Will My Auto Insurance Policy Cover Lost Wages?
After a car accident in Virginia, car insurance of the responsible driver is often the first potential source of financial compensation. According to state law, every driver is required to carry the following insurance minimums:
- Bodily injury liability: $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident
- Property damage liability: $20,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist coverage: $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident
Virginia is a fault-based state, which means you can pursue benefits from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company. This includes, among other things, damages for lost wages under their bodily injury liability coverage.
If your lost wages and other losses surpass the limits of the at-fault party’s policy, you may still sue the driver and attempt to recover more than their insurance, but it’s often a dead end. Also, our skilled injury attorneys will examine whether underinsured motorist insurance may provide additional coverage, but every case is different and you must consult one of our attorneys if you have questions about a personal injury claim of your own.
What Evidence Can I Use to Prove My Lost Wages?
To prove your lost wages, you need to show documentation of your income before the accident and demonstrate how much income you lost due to your injuries. You will have to calculate the amount of time you were unable to work and how much time you anticipate missing in the future.
Documentation that can be used to prove lost wages includes:
Your Employment Contract
An employment contract that details job specifics, such as your paid time off, rate of pay, and information pertaining to benefits, bonuses, and raises can serve as strong supporting evidence in your claim.
Your latest pay stubs will be the most beneficial. If you are paid by the hour or have work hours that vary from week to week, your pay stubs will be an important tool when it comes to calculating your average income. Your pay stubs might also offer proof of accrued sick days, personal days, commissions, and overtime, along with benefits that you and your employer have contributed to
If you receive your pay via direct deposit, the transaction records will prove your exact income and how often you are paid.
If you have held the same job for a while, your yearly tax returns will show your annual income, including any compensation and bonuses that you earned in addition to your base pay.
Statement of Wage Loss
Your employer may be willing to fill out a statement of wage loss itemizing your total losses. Our law firm assists our clients in having your employer or supervisor fill in that information.
If you claim that your injuries are preventing you from returning to work, the insurance company is going to demand proof. Another strong piece of evidence for a lost wage claim is your doctor’s note detailing what period of time she believes you should be out of work. Or, a letter from your doctor that documents your specific injuries and the period of time you could not work is great documentation.
How Do I Calculate My Lost Wages?
How lost wages from your car accident are calculated will depend on what kind of income you receive and how you are paid. If you are paid by the hour, you should be eligible to receive your gross pay for every hour you missed. If you are salaried, you should receive your gross yearly pay divided by the amount of time you were unable to work. If you were out of work for three months, you should be compensated for the equivalent of three months gross pay. Virginia has a long-established rule that you are entitled to gross lost wages, not net lost wages after taxes.
As mentioned above, if you used sick days or personal days to recover, you are eligible to be reimbursed for that time as well because it is a part of your total compensation. Paid time off is calculated in the same manner as your other lost wages. One hour or day of paid time off equals one hour or day of pay.
Lost wage claims become infinitely more complex when you factor in future lost income or you have missed out on income that is not guaranteed such as commissions and bonuses. In these cases, expert testimony may be necessary to confirm that the damages you are claiming are reasonably foreseeable. Calculating lost wages arising from a car accident claim can become complicated and is best entrusted to a skilled Virginia Beach car accident lawyer.
Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp
A serious car accident can disrupt your ability to work and earn a living. Whether you are only out of work for a little while, missed out on chances for commissions, bonuses, and raises, or were completely sidelined, an experienced Virginia Beach car accident lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help. That is what we did for this client when we secured her a $1.25 million settlement after a surgical error left her with both legs amputated.
If you were injured in a car accident and have questions regarding a claim for lost wages, you can schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys by calling us at (833) 997-1774 or filling out the contact form on our website. For your convenience, we have offices in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Portsmouth.
Rick Shapiro has practiced personal injury law for over 30 years in Virginia, North Carolina, and throughout the Southeastern United States. He is a Board-Certified Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (ABA Accredited) and has litigated injury cases throughout the eastern United States, including wrongful death, trucking, faulty products, railroad, and medical negligence claims. During his three-decade career, Shapiro has won client appeals before the VA Supreme Court, VA Court of Appeals, NC Supreme Court, SC Supreme Court, WV Supreme Court, TN Supreme Court, and three times before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, underscoring Shapiro’s trial achievements. In addition, he and his law firm have won settlements/verdicts in excess of $100 million. His success in and out of the courtroom is a big reason why he was named 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” in railroad law in U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers publication (Norfolk, VA area), and he has been named a “Best Lawyer” and “Super Lawyer” by those peer-reviewed organizations for multiple years. Rick was also named a “Leader in the Law, Class of 2022” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly (total of 33 statewide honorees consisting of lawyers and judges across Virginia). And in September 2023, Rick was selected as a recipient of the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) 2023 President’s Award. Although many nominations were submitted from across the country, Rick was just one of eight attorneys chosen by the prestigious National Board which certifies civil trial attorneys across the U.S. Rick was also recently named to Virginia Lawyers Weekly 2024 Virginia’s Go To Lawyers Medical Malpractice. The attorneys awarded this honor are nominated by their colleagues and chosen by a panel from the publication.