How to Claim Lost Wages After a Car Accident

63% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Most injury victims are unable to return to work if they suffer from severe injuries after an accident, often because they cannot perform their job duties. Some people may even lose their jobs during their recovery period.

This type of damage is referred to as lost wages and tends to be the most overlooked, so it’s crucial for victims to seek legal counsel. If you’ve experienced unemployment as a result of an accident, here’s everything you need to know.

What Do You Mean by Lost Wages?

Lost wages refer to the money, income, and benefits you miss out on due to injuries sustained in an accident.

Hourly Wages

Workers miss out on their hourly earnings in the event of an accident, spending most of their time in recovery. For instance, when workers miss 10 days of work, they will multiply their hourly rate by the total number of hours they’ve missed.


Most people work extra jobs during a particular time of the year, like resort workers who work overtime when the summer season sets in. You can include lost overtime in your claim by providing documentation of your work experience during the season.


Most severe injuries will cause you to miss a bonus at work. In such cases, you should demand compensation for lost bonuses. You will have to provide proof of documentation, including a report from your employer that details the bonus you would have received had you been able to work. 

Sick Days

Victims of an accident use up some of their sick days to treat injuries, with most utilizing all their sick days during the recovery period. To claim compensation for lost leaves, you must provide medical proof and supporting documentation.


Accidents can cost you a job and other perks, like pick-and-drop services, company cell phones or laptops, gym memberships, and more. If your chances of getting a job have reduced because of your injuries, you can also claim for lost perks. 

Lost Income After a Car Accident

According to a 2021 report by the National Safety Council (NSC), the cost of injuries in the workplace amounted to a total of $167 billion, including lost wages, medical expenses, and administrative costs.

Most injuries in a car accident are physical, like a broken leg, and this may prevent a worker from doing their job. In such cases, the victim is entitled to recover lost wages from the accused party or at-fault driver.

If you’re involved in a car accident, your first response should be to seek medical attention. This is part of collecting evidence and paperwork necessary to file a personal injury claim when you want compensation for damages.

If you’re left with a permanent disability or a long-lasting condition that affects your ability to work and exercise your capabilities for an indefinite period, you can recover those damages under lost earning capacity. Even if the disability is temporary, you can still recover lost wages for the days you’ve missed out on.

Does Aggravating a Pre-Existing Injury Count?

Most accident victims may lose their earning capacity or jobs owing to a pre-existing condition that is aggravated after the accident. Recovering lost wages, in this case, would require a paper trail of evidence.

The at-fault party must also be a direct cause of the aggravation. If you can prove that the accident made the pre-existing injury worse, you can recover the full amount of your lost earnings and/or working capacity.

How to Recover Lost Wages With Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state.

As a general rule, workers are paid two-thirds of their salaries for any work missed, though the weekly maximum is established by state laws.

If you’ve suffered from injuries in the workplace, you can always resort to workers’ compensation. You can claim for this in the following cases:

  • If the workplace injury keeps you out of work for more than seven days
  • If the workplace injury is permanent and reduces employment chances
  • If the workplace injury has reduced your work hours and pay rate

How to Recover Lost Wages in a Lawsuit

The first line of defense when pursuing any type of personal injury lawsuit is to gather enough evidence to prove your case. To prove lost wages, you’ll need to submit your most recent paycheck prior to the injury. You must also include other paperwork like invoices, bills, and tax receipts to authenticate your salary and non-salary benefits.

It’s hard to prove a victim’s lost earning capacity, but you can always present your medical records and doctors’ reports for better information. While you can prove an injury, you cannot prove what will happen because of it. But the best way to measure the extent of damage is by providing your latest paycheck and past transactions.

You can compare paychecks before and after the damage to prove the extent of lost earning capacity. You will also require expert witnesses, like someone specializing in economics and labor laws, to help you determine a ballpark figure. Most personal injury lawsuits require testimonies from experts about character traits and work habits.

Common Types of Documents to Recover Lost Wages

  • Employment contracts detail essential aspects of your job, including your hourly rates or minimum wages, paid time off, bonuses, and benefits. Any related documentation must be included to support the claim.
  • Pay stubs prove your employment status before and after the accident. They also provide proof of vacation time, overtime, and commissions. Your pay slips simply help establish your average income.
  • Bank records and statements help establish the frequency of payment. If you’re an hourly earner or have wages that may vary (project-based work), you can provide an invoice or receipt as proof of payment.
  • Tax returns establish your yearly income, which is useful if your injuries have resulted in loss of earning capacity. Providing tax returns also helps reflect your maximum and minimum earnings on top of the base pay.
  • To support any claim for lost wages, you must ask experts to provide statements like a wage loss statement or a medical statement to prove that your injuries prevent you from working. 

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