How Are Lost Wages Recovered in a Massachusetts Car Accident Case?

Sometimes, injuries sustained in a Massachusetts car accident are so severe that you can’t return to work for a few days, or in some cases weeks or months. Just because you are unable to work due to your injuries doesn’t mean your rent, mortgage, or other bills stop coming in the mail. Not only have you accumulated medical bills and medical expenses, but you are out of work and have lost income as a result. It isn’t fair that you have to lose money because of someone else’s negligent driving. 

What Can You Do?

If you are injured in a car accident in Massachusetts you can file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. The claim is that their insured operated his or her car negligently and caused the accident and your injuries. As part of the claim you will seek financial compensation for your medical bills, out of pocket expenses, and lost wages.  This article will focus on the lost wage aspect of the damages someone incurs as a result of a car accident. For free information about other elements of damages please see our Library right here on our website.

Lost wages are a measure of damages that are intended to compensate someone for the income or wages that he or she would have been able to earn if it had not been for the accident and resulting disability. Generally, lost wages are recoverable at the end of a claim or case and are usually incorporated into a settlement or verdict. Sure, that may help pay the bills then, but what do you do in the meantime?

In the case of Massachusetts car accidents, the auto insurance policy for the car the injured person was in carries certain benefits called Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Generally, PIP benefits offer up to $8,000 to cover medical bills and lost wages. As a side note, PIP will cover the initial $2,000 in medical bills if the injured party has private health insurance. As for lost wages, PIP benefits will cover 75% of lost wages. So, it can be advantageous to attempt to have the PIP benefits applied to the lost wages sooner rather than later. This is because if you can get the proper documentation to support your lost wages, as discussed below, then PIP can cover at least 75% of them before they exhaust their PIP benefits on medical bills. This will, at least, get you some money for your lost wages during the time you are out of work. The remainder of lost wages will be recoverable at the end of a successful claim.

What Can You Recover?

To recover compensation for the time you have been out of work, insurance companies need proof that a doctor advised or ordered you to remain out of work.  This means the insurance company will need to see and review medical notes, including disability notes written by the treating doctor.  There are three types of losses of income in a personal injury claim:  lost wages, lost earning capacity, and lost opportunities.  In a personal injury claim, you have the right to recover all three losses of income.

General lost wages refer to the income you could not earn during the period you were out work.  Lost earning capacity suggests that a long-term disability has been sustained from the accident, which limits your ability to earn as much money as you did prior to the accident.  Lastly, lost opportunities refer to chances, such as a job interview, that you had to cancel or reject because you were recovering from your injuries.

Documenting Your Lost Income

In most cases, there are two important documents that will need to be obtained to pursue compensation for lost wages. These documents will come from your doctor and your employer. The documents will be used as evidence by your injury lawyer and will speed up the process of getting you the lost wages you are entitled to. 

Disability Note: The first document is a letter from your treating doctor or physician. This letter typically describes the injuries and how long those injuries restricted you from work. Most doctors have preprinted forms that are used. On these forms the doctors will fill in the blanks and check off whether their patient is temporarily totally disabled or temporarily partially disabled. If you receive these disability notes from your doctor after a car accident, make sure you keep them handy or give them to your accident attorney.

Wage Verification: The other document comes from your employer. This letter, often called the Salary or Wage Verification Form, will verify your employment, the dates and time you missed work because of your injury as well as your salary or rate of pay.  Pay stubs are also important documents that can be helpful in establishing or validating your salary or pay rate, an average of the hours you work, and your job title.

Using these two documents, you or your personal injury attorney can then calculate and support the amount of lost wages you are seeking.

Calculating Lost Wages

Calculating your lost wages depends on how you are paid. If you are on salary, the amount you are compensated is solely based on your pay rate and the amount of time you missed due to the injury.  If you do not work on salary and are paid by an hourly amount or commission, the calculations get a little more complex.  In this case, your employer’s documentation or pay stubs would be used to determine the number of hours you missed from work.  If you work regular hours, this documentation will confirm your normal work schedule.  If your hours vary, an average will be calculated using pay stubs. The number of hours you missed will then be multiplied by your hourly rate and shared with the other party’s insurance company. For lost wages, the gross earnings should be sought.

Personal injury law firms, like Mahaney & Pappas, LLP, can help you get compensated for the period of time you were out of work.  This includes gathering the correct forms, dealing with PIP, and negotiating with the other party’s insurance company. If you are injured in an accident and are unable to work, feel free to contact us today or call us at (508) 879-3500 for a free consultation.  Our experience and knowledge of injury cases offer accident victims an advantage against insurance companies in getting maximum compensation for injuries.