After a serious car accident, it is not uncommon to miss a few days of work with a sore neck or back. Some people can only return to work on light duty and others might have to rely on short-term disability if it is available. Many individuals who are involved in a car accident are generally able to return to work after a few weeks, but if you have suffered a disabling injury as the result of Florida car accident, your career and earning potential may be in jeopardy.
What Qualifies as a “Disabling” Injury?
A “disabling” injury is defined as an injury that causes the injured party to develop a legal disability. The American 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, the following:
- 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; or
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, social security defines a “disability” slightly differently than the ADA, as you must have a disability that prevents you from (1) working as you did before; (2) adjusting to other work, and (3) is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Social Security Disability Insurance is available if you paid your social security taxes over the course of your work life, and supplemental income is available if you are suffering from financial need. However, not everyone is entitled to social security, especially those who suffered a disabling injury but are still considered able to “adjust” to a new profession. How then, can you be compensated for your loss of career earning potential?
Common Types of Disabling Injuries
Workplace injuries and automobile accidents are among the leading causes of disabling injuries in the United States. In fact, the Center for Disease Control reports that the most common type of disability is a mobility disability, which often occurs after a fall or car accident and is measured based on your ability to either walk or climb stairs. In Florida, it is reported that almost 1 in 4 people suffers from a disabling injury, but the nature and extent of those injuries vary and may not affect your earning potential.
For example, next to mobility disabilities, cognitive disabilities are the most common disabling injury 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 not see a large reduction in your earning potential. However, if you are a surgeon and as the result of a car accident suffer a traumatic brain injury that affects your ability to concentrate, you are likely going to be disqualified from performing surgery and your earning potential will surely plummet.
What is “Lost Earning Potential”?
Lost earning potential is also commonly referred to “lost earning capacity” or “future lost wages.” It refers to either a decrease in your ability to earn wages or a complete inability to earn wages as the result of your disability. Unlike making a claim for actual lost wages, which can be proven with tax returns and pay stubs because it is based on income already lost, proving lost earning potential is more complicated. It requires you to prove what you believe you are going to lose in income over the course of your “work life” as a result of the accident, but it is compensable under Florida law. Whether it is calculated based on a decrease in potential income because you are no longer able to fully perform on the job or a complete loss of income, it is essential to seek the assistance of a Florida personal injury attorney in calculating your lost earning potential.
Proving Lost Earning Potential
It is critical in most personal injury cases where lost earning potential is being claimed to hire an economic expert witness who specializes in occupations. Because proving lost earning potential requires speculation, an economic expert will work with your Florida personal injury attorney to calculate what you reasonably would have made over the course of your work life had you not been injured in an accident. Expert witnesses will normally utilize 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 over the course of your lost work life expectancy.
For example, consider the following scenario: a plumber suffers a disabling injury as the result of Florida car crash when they are 40 years old. They made an average of $100,000 annually and their salary should have increased by 5% every 5 years. An expert may determine that they should have worked until they were 65, meaning that their salary including expected raises would be multiplied by 15 – the years lost on their work life expectancy. This would result in an expert witness informing the judge and the defendant that they are owed over 1.5 million dollars as compensation for their lost earning potential.
Contact an Experienced Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have been injured in an accident, do not settle for less than what you deserve simply because you cannot see how your injuries may affect your earning potential over 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 will lose as the result of your accident. We are your premier personal injury attorneys in the greater Tampa Bay area, so please contact us today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your future lost wages.