If I Can't Work After A Car Accident, Can I Recover My Lost Wages?
In my experience, there are essentially three varieties of disability that an injury victim may experience after a car accident or other personal injury causing event. Concepts that one sees frequently in workers’ compensation law may serve to illustrate the first two forms of disability: temporary total disability and temporary partial disability. I've represented people throughout the years that have been injured to an extent that they are simply unable to return to work in any capacity for a period of time.
This type of disability-and corresponding wage loss- is defined by a total inability to work, but is temporary in duration.
In other words, at some point, the injured individual recovers and is able to return to their prior occupation without limitation. A second scenario is one in which an individual sustains an injury, is able to return to work, however they might not be able to fully perform all of the requirements of their job. Ideally, if their employer can accommodate them, they are given some type of light-duty work but earn their regular wage.
Unfortunately, not all employers have light duty work. In these instances, some individuals have their hours cut or might have to miss work altogether.
Again in this scenario, after a period of medical care, attendance and recuperation, the injured individual recovers and is able to return to their former occupation on a full-time basis. This type of disability is also considered temporary rather than permanent, and partial as opposed to total. The individual is able to perform some, albeit limited, substantial gainful employment-related activity.
The third class of disability involves a situation in which an individual sustains injuries that are significant enough that they are simply unable to return to work on a permanent basis, or, physically unable to perform their prior job on a permanent basis. Typically the services of an expert are required to give an opinion as to that individual’s disability, and further what their wage-earning potential would have been but for the accident, and what it is now. In the case of permanent disability, the injured person is going to be entitled to collect what they could have earned over the course of their expected life but for the injuries caused by the accident. In all three of these scenarios, certainly, the injured person is entitled to collect as an element of their economic damage claim the wages or other income that they lost during their period of disability. Where that time away from work is fixed, the amount of wage loss is readily calculable. However, where the injured individual is unable to return to work or is unable to return to their prior employment, proof of future lost wages or proof of loss of future earning capacity can be somewhat more detailed. A skilled personal injury attorney can assist you in making such a claim. Of course, and in addition to whatever claims the injury victim might have against the at-fault party, they may additionally be entitled to personal injury protection lost wage payments*, up to the limits of the PIP coverage.
*The Assembly has recently enacted a change in this process. Marylanders now have the option of carrying less insurance. An insured may now reject personal injury protection altogether, under specific circumstances. See Insurance Article, Md. INSURANCE Code Ann. § 19-506.1.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 8/23/19.