How to Calculate Lost Wages in a Personal Injury Claim
Go to the doctor first. Don’t just decide on your own that you are injured and you have to stay home from work. You need to substantiate your claim with good documentation, and one way to do that is to see a physician or other health care provider and have a full examination. Be sure that if the doctor tells you to take time off from work, you don’t leave his or her office without a physician’s medical form in your hand, authorizing you to stay home from your job for the period of time necessary to recover from your injuries. The doctor may put a specific amount of time, or may leave it open-ended until your next appointment. That’s fine. Just have the document. This paper will prove that it was the doctor’s idea for you to take that time off, not your own.
Other documentation you need to support your claim is a letter from your employer indicating how much time you took off, what your hourly rate of pay or your monthly salary is, how many hours a week you work, and whether or not you typically work overtime. If you don’t usually work overtime but you would have during the time you were gone due to a change in work load or a special project, be sure to have your employer include that in the letter as well as the rate of overtime pay. In addition, if you were due for an increase and/or a promotion, make sure your employer notes this including how much more it would have been and when it was to take effect.
In most states, your lost wages are your gross earnings, not your net earnings. It is the amount of money you had the capacity to earn on your job prior to the accident. Some states only reimburse net wages, but present it all. Let them tell you they only reimburse net wages and don’t be afraid to question why. Also note that if your injury was as a result of an accident on the job and you are making a workers’ compensation claim, it varies from state to state whether you will be reimbursed for gross wages, a percentage of gross wages, or net wages.
When it’s time to go back to work, make sure you have a medical release form from your doctor indicating when you are able to go back. Any vacation taken or sick leave is also reimbursable as lost income and should be included.
To summarize, you will need the following documentation to support your claim for lost wages: a doctor’s authorization to take time off from work, a letter from your employer including your rate of pay and hours, and a return to work release from your physician.