By their very nature, accidents happen suddenly and without warning. What was a beautiful day for a bike ride can immediately turn into a tragedy, and most people are not prepared for what comes next. While a minor injury may take you out of commission for a few weeks, serious personal injuries can have consequences that last a lifetime, especially when it comes to traumatic brain and spine injuries. If you or a loved one was recently in a life-altering accident, you may only think about making it through tomorrow, not your future expenses. That’s where an experienced Florida personal injury attorney can help you determine how to calculate and fight for your future losses while you focus on your recovery.
When Do You Need to Consider Future Losses?
It is not difficult to calculate all future losses—for example, if you broke your leg in an accident and will miss work for 12 weeks without permanent injury. In this case, you can calculate your future losses during the next 12 weeks without the need for expert analysis.
The problem with calculating future losses comes when you suffer an injury that causes a legal disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, which include, but are not limited to:
- Caring for yourself
- Performing manual tasks
- Seeing or hearing
- Eating or sleeping
- Walking or standing
- Lifting or bending
- Speaking, communicating, or breathing
- Learning, reading, concentrating, or thinking
Those who suffer from a disabling injury are generally entitled to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income through the federal government or a Florida state counterpart. However, not everyone is entitled to Social Security, especially those who suffered disabling injuries but are still considered able to “adjust” to a new profession. How then, can you receive compensation for the future losses you will incur if your disability destroys your career and will result in years of additional medical expenses?
Common Types of Disabling Injuries
The Centers for Disease Control report that the most common type of disability is a mobility disability, which can occur after a fall or car accident and is measured based on your ability to either walk or climb stairs. In Florida, almost one in four people suffer from disabling injuries, but the nature and extent of those injuries vary. For example, after mobility disabilities, cognitive disabilities are the most common disabling injuries, and they are measured based on your ability to concentrate and remember.
If you work in a job that is physically intensive but does not require intense concentration, such as dock-work, you may see a larger reduction in your earning potential from a mobility disability than a cognitive one. However, if you are a surgeon and a car accident caused a traumatic brain injury that damages your ability to concentrate, you could lose the ability to perform surgeries—and your earning potential will surely plummet. In these cases, you will need to avail yourself of both expert economic and medical witness testimony to prove your future losses.
Proving Future Losses
In personal injury cases, a plaintiff who claims lost earning potential must hire an economic expert witness who specializes in occupations. Under Florida law, “a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify [in a case] in the form of an opinion.” Because proving lost earning potential or future medical bills requires speculation, an economic expert will work with your Florida personal injury attorney and doctors to calculate what you reasonably would have made during the course of your work life had the accident not injured you. Expert witnesses will normally use work-life expectancy charts, which calculate the average age of retirement based on your gender, occupation, and ethnicity. The expert will then take that information and multiply it by your average expected yearly income during the course of your lost work life expectancy.
For example, if you suffered a disabling injury as the result of Florida car crash when you were 40, if you made an average of $100,000 annually, and your salary would have increased by 5 percent every five years—then an expert may determine that you should have worked until you were 65, meaning that you can multiply your salary, including expected raises, by 25, the years lost on your work life expectancy. This would result in an expert witness informing the court that the defendant in your case owes you almost $2.8 million in compensation for your lost earning potential.
Common Medical Expenses After a Car Accident
If you suffered a disabling injury, lost earning potential and a career change are not your only causes of worry. After a serious accident, prepare to receive bills from the following healthcare providers:
- Ambulance company
- Hospital facility
- Hospital radiology
- Hospital physicians
- Medical equipment
- Private physicians
- Private radiology
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy
A single MRI can cost about $1,000, and if you injured multiple areas of your body in an accident, such as the three different areas of your spinal cord, you may require multiple MRIs during the course of several years. Furthermore, car accidents may result in difficult to treat spinal cord and neck injuries, such as whiplash, sprains, strains, dislocation, and herniated disks. Rehabilitation can require three to five physical therapy sessions per week, including chiropractic and pain management care, for years to come.
Even with continued treatment, severe herniation can require spinal fusion surgery, which costs more than $100,000 and requires almost $70,000 in rehabilitation expenses. Many injured people will wait for years until they decide to have surgery because they want to try more non-invasive procedures first. In this case, you must consider what your future expenses will look like after a disability injury.
Contact an Experienced Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you were injured in an accident in the greater Tampa Bay area, do not settle for less than what you deserve simply because you cannot see how your injuries may hurt you financially during the course of your lifetime. The Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has the expert witnesses and experience you need to fight for every penny you lost as the result of your accident. Contact them today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your future lost wages.