VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Hello, everyone. This is Robert Mansour, and I want to spend a few minutes today talking about proving lost earnings in relation to a personal injury accident. Let's say you get into a car accident and you can't work as a result of the accident. Here's how it works. If you're only going to allege $200 or $300 in lost earnings, the insurance adjuster for the responsible party is probably not going to give you a hard time, but the more money you ask for, the more information they ask for. If you start to ask for $5,000 in lost earnings, $10,000 in lost earnings, you're going to have to provide a few things.
Number 1, you're going to have to provide evidence that you were consistently earning something and then there was a big drop after the accident. How do you prove that? Number 1, you have to have consistent earnings. If you're the kind of person who has roller coaster earnings, it's very difficult to prove lost earnings. It's an extreme uphill battle when it comes to a small business or a sole business and you have to prove steady earnings for a period of time. Contrast that to somebody who gets paid the same every 2 weeks. That person might be able to show a very big drop.
The other thing you need is you need to show that a doctor told you to stay off of work. In most cases, you're going to need to prove that a physician told you, "Listen, you need to stay off work," and that's with a doctor's note. If you want to stay off work, you better ask for that doctor's note. Sometimes the doctors don't think to give it to you, you have to actually ask for it. If you need to renew it, you have to renew it, because there's usually an expiration date. You can't just get the note and say, "Aha, I'm going to sit and watch TV all day." That's not going to work.
The other thing is the more you ask for, the more documentation they're going to need. They might start to want to see your books. They might want to see all your bookkeeping, your tax returns. They might want to see all of that information for several years back. If you're not too excited about people looking through your tax records, people looking through your books, you may not want to bring a lost earnings claim. It might be more headache than it's worth.
Also, I have seen situations where the request for lost earnings proves to be a "sideshow" that distracts from the main issue, which is the person was injured and got hurt. All of a sudden, it detracts from that portion of the case, which is more important in many cases. If you're going to bring a lost earnings claim, think long and hard about whether you really want to go through the hassle.
This has been Robert Mansour on a brief video here about lost earnings. Thank you very much for visiting, and I hope I can be of assistance. Feel free to call my office if I can be of any help in your personal injury case. Thank you very much.
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,