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Injury Lawsuits: When Can You Sue for Lost Wages, Future Earnings?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

When calculating damages for an injury lawsuit, lost wages are often included in the total amount.

Lost wages typically include money that a plaintiff would have earned from the time the injury occurred until the settlement is reached or a trial is complete. However, an injury lawsuit may also seek recovery for the loss of future wages, known as earning capacity. Damages for lost earning capacity seek to compensate an injured person for his or her diminished ability to earn money in the future due to impairments caused by an injury.

When can a plaintiff seek these two types of damages?

Lost Wages

Lost wages fall into the category of special damages, which generally include any out-of-pocket expenses caused by the injury or the defendant's actions. Unlike general damages for which it may be difficult to determine a specific value (such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium with family members), special damages such as lost wages generally must be proven with specificity in order to be awarded.

Lost wages can typically be proven by showing what the injured worker's normal rate of pay was, and what that person would've earned from working in the absence of the injury. In some circumstances, even a person who was unemployed at the time of an accident can recover lost wages, if he or she can prove that money would have been earned during the period following the injury.

Loss of Earning Capacity

If an injury results in a person becoming unable or less able to earn money in the future, then lost earning capacity damages may be awarded in addition to lost wages.

The amount of future earning capacity lost is generally harder to prove with specificity. In addition to your past earnings, the court will likely consider a number of other factors including your age, occupation, skill, and life expectancy.

If you've been injured in an accident, a personal injury attorney can help you determine the strength of your case and how much your potential claim may be worth. You can also learn more about damages in a personal injury lawsuit at FindLaw's section on Injury Damages.

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