The insurance adjuster handling your Georgia personal injury or accident claim might refuse to consider your lost income due to a lack of proper documentation. To claim lost wages, you must prove that any time spent away from work was medically necessary and directly related to your injuries.
This proof can be established in a number of ways. Proof can be made by obtaining work slips or medical narratives from your treating physician. You can also use pay stubs, W-2(s) from the tax year before the accident and any years following it in which you were still undergoing treatment for your injuries, or a salary or wage verification form from your employer.
Despite the seeming difficulty of proof, Georgia law allows for the recovery of past and future income. Georgia also allows you to recover for a loss of earning capacity. This term refers to the loss of an injured party’s ability to earn a living or the loss of the capacity to work.
How are lost wages calculated?
You may calculate lost wages in Georgia as follows:
- To calculate lost wages for someone who has a monthly salary, multiply the monthly salary by the number of months missed. Hourly workers would multiply their hourly wages by the number of hours missed. That is your past lost wages. Please note that Georgia does not require that this salary amount be discounted to reflect taxes.
- Consider the amount of additional time you are expected to miss because of the accident. If the trier of fact is told (and agrees to) 14 more months, that would be 14 times your monthly salary.
- Adding the two numbers together results in the total lost wages. For example, two months at $10,000/month plus 14 months at the same amount would equal $160,000 in lost wages.
If the future period of disability is likely to be of any great length, it may be necessary to work with experts regarding inflation, raises, and more.
If you did not work on a salary, it might be a bit more complicated to calculate lost wages. However, it can still be done using documents such as Form 1099 payment records to calculate your average weekly wage.
Lost wages in Georgia are part of what are called “special damages.” According to Georgia law, special damages are “those [damages] which actually flow from a tortious act” like your car accident. Special damages require proof in order for you to recover your losses. That is why things like pay stubs are so important to your recovery. They demonstrate how much you were making prior to the accident and have not made after the accident.
On the other hand, general damages are those which the law “presumes” to flow from your accident, and the amount of them need not be proven. An example of general damages would be damages for pain and suffering.
What about future lost wages?
Your accident may have resulted in a life-altering injury that will affect your ability to earn wages for the rest of your life. Your injuries may have resulted in a permanent disability such as paralysis or chronic pain. Or, you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury that impairs your cognitive function, making the kind of work you previously did no longer possible for you.
In cases like this, Georgia recognizes a loss of earning capacity or loss of the ability to work as general damages. Because earnings well into the future can be highly difficult to calculate, expert testimony may be necessary to prove your loss of earning capacity.
There will need to be testimony as to inflation and raises, but also to your career trajectory. Were you a young professional who aspired to a partnership one day? Were you fast-tracked in a corporate environment? These factors allow the trier of fact to calculate a reasonable amount for your lost earning capacity, but they do not have to be proven in black and white as the lost wages do.
How long will it take to obtain compensation?
A simple car accident with minor damages has the potential to settle very quickly. A more complex case with multiple severe injuries, permanent disability, and loss of earning capacity claims can sometimes take years.
The timing will depend on factors such as:
- The total of your damages – special and general
- Any complex or unusual facts about your case – unusual circumstances or injuries
- The apportionment of fault between the drivers
- How eager the insurance company is to settle
- How eager you are to settle
- How long it takes to recover from your injuries
- Whether or not the case goes to trial
The factors determining the speed and amount of a settlement may well be unfamiliar to you. They are, however, very familiar to the insurance company’s lawyers, who will be eager to put cash in your hands right away. They will do so by offering the lowest settlement they think you will accept and try to end the case at the lowest cost to the insurance company.
Remember, You Only Get One Chance to Settle
There is a saying in law: “You only get one bite at the apple.” This saying usually refers to only being able to litigate a particular set of facts once, but it applies equally to settlements. Once you have accepted a settlement, it is very unlikely you can ever go back and get more money.
Contact a Georgia Car Accident Attorney Today
Because settlements are often final, it is crucial to avoid acting too soon or accepting an offer that is too low. You won’t necessarily know the full extent of your injuries and losses immediately after the accident. You won’t necessarily know what is a fair settlement or a “good offer.” You certainly won’t be in the best place to aggressively negotiate your claim. In fact, you could still be in hospital or rehab trying to get your hands around your new life and not really focusing yet on how to pay for it all.
An experienced and knowledgeable Georgia car accident attorney knows how insurance companies work. More importantly, they know how to evaluate your particular case and maximize your settlement. Call Scholle Law today at (866) 972-5287 for a free initial consultation.