As part of your injury claim, you are generally entitled to "lost earnings." That basically translates to "money lost from your job due to the accident." Notice, there has to be "money lost" and it has to be "due to" the accident. Speculative lost earnings (speculative damages of any sort) generally won't hold water.
I recently had a case where a client alleged she lost her job because of an accident. I later learned she didn't really lose her job...she was on her way to interview for the job. There was no guarantee she was going to get the job. Even then, there was no proven track record to illustrate how much actual money she would have lost. She assured me she was "going to get" the job. While that may indeed be worth some compensation, a claim for $20,000 in lost earnings wasn't going to fly.
Proving lost earnings is a very tricky endeavor. If you're going to ask for such compensation, be prepared to prove it to the suspicious insurance adjuster. Remember, as far as most insurance adjusters are concerned, you are probably trying to "get away with something." So many people out there are trying to take advantage of insurance companies and most adjusters will treat you as "guilty" until proven innocent. They will want pay stubs, tax records, etc.
I had a client once who alleged thousands in lost income. She had her own business (which makes things even more difficult. Income that fluctuates is even harder to prove). When we closely examined her lost earnings, we found she was actually reporting a loss of a few thousand dollars every year. For example, one year she made $35,000, but she took "expenses" of $36,500 on her tax forms. Therefore, she arguably lost $1,500 by operating her business that year. The same was true for subsequent years. I explained to her that the defense would likely argue she was better off WITHOUT her business because she was LOSING money every year. In short, if she was always operating at a loss, it was hard to show she lost income because of the accident.
I generally don't encourage lost earnings claims unless they are easily substantiated. If you find that you're going to have to do a lot of explaining, it's probably not worth the effort and may backfire. If you can't convince the insurance adjuster of your lost earnings, imagine trying to convince 12 jurors. Imagine showing a jury all your aggressive deductions on your tax records. Do you think most jurors will appreciate that?
Finally, a lost earnings claim should be brought if it doesn't hamper the rest of the case. I had a case recently where my client's injuries were substantial. However, he insisted on arguing for a few thousand dollars in lost earnings. I explained that the value in his case was in his injury claim - not so much with the lost earnings portion. By continuing to emphasize the lost earning component of the case, I was worried it would become a side show that would take the focus away from the serious injuries he sustained. Juries would be closely examining tax forms, income and expense reports, etc., instead of focusing on the client's serious injuries.
If you wish to discuss your case with Robert Mansour, call (661) 414-7100 to see if we can help you with your accident case.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,