With a Bit of Preparation, You Can Pocket Your Past and Future Earnings
I recently resolved a personal injury case for a client who suffered severe injuries in a trucking accident. Prior to her accident, she worked in the oil field earning a high salary. The injuries she suffered in the accident caused her to miss time from work (past lost wages), and she also lost her ability to ever return to work in the oil field (future lost wages). Her total lost earnings — made up of her past and future lost earnings — were enormous and put her finances, family, and overall future at risk. Like many personal injury victims, my client’s lost earnings represented a significant part of her overall damages. Thankfully, by following the steps outlined below, we helped recover these lost earnings for my client.
Recovering lost earnings is never easy. Insurance companies are notoriously reluctant to pay for lost earnings despite clear New Mexico laws establishing them as a recoverable damage in a personal injury claim. (See New Mexico Uniform Jury Instruction 13-1803.) Most denials for lost earnings claims are based on a failure to submit the proper evidence to support the claim. To avoid having your lost earnings claims denied, follow these three steps:
Step 1: Gather your medical records.
You need to prove that your accident-related injuries caused you to miss time from work. Your medical records can accomplish this. Specific documents from your medical provider releasing you from work can be very helpful.
Step 2: Request verification from your employer for missed work.
Ask your employer for documentation showing the specific dates you missed work. This can be as simple as a letter from your employer, your past pay stubs, or anything showing the dates you missed.
Step 3: Collect records to prove how much you are paid.
The best records are pay stubs, ideally from the past six months. If you are paid hourly, you need to show a history of how many hours you work per week and how much you are paid. Pay stubs are effective because they often show your year-to-date earnings, and they likely include additional forms of compensation you may earn, such as overtime or per diem pay. Remember, you are looking to show your total lost compensation. If you don’t have your pay stubs, you can provide a W-2 or Form 1099, but you will likely need at least three years of those records to show how your annual income was reduced. Alternative documents such as written contracts for work or bank statements can also be used and may be necessary if you are self-employed.
By collecting the documents outlined in these three steps, you can prove:
1) your accident-related injuries caused you to miss work;
2) how much work you missed; and
3) how much income you lost as a result of your missed work.
Here’s a tip: Gather all of these items before you submit your claim. It will help avoid delays and make it easier for the insurance adjuster to evaluate the merits of your claim all at once.
In some cases, it may be necessary to hire an expert to help prove a lost earnings claim. This step is rarely necessary, except in substantial cases that involve future lost earnings or other complex financial matters. In this situation, seek legal help.
Our team here at The Injury and Disability Law Center helps clients with all aspects of personal injury claims, including lost earnings claims. We work hard to ensure clients are treated fairly and receive the compensation they deserve.