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WAGE LOSS IN CALIFORNIA PERSONAL INJURY | WEST COAST TRIAL LAWYERS


Feb 4, 2017

California law entitles personal injury plaintiffs to recover damages for lost wages stemming from their injuries. Read on to learn more. If you have been injured due to the fault of another, California personal injury law may entitle you to recover damages for both past and future wage loss suffered as a result of your injuries.   Wage loss damage claims come under the umbrella of economic damages, as opposed to non economic damages (which includes claims for pain and suffering and emotional distress). Though standard economic damages tend to be more predictable and measurable than non economic damages, wage loss – particularly future wage loss – can be a bit more complicated. Thus, a favorable outcome will almost certainly require the skillful argument of an experienced personal injury attorney.   To better understand the potential wage loss damages in your California personal injury action, it’s important to understand the different types of wage loss that you may be entitled to recover.

Past Losses

In California, personal injury victims are entitled to recover damages for the lost earnings they sustain as a result of their injuries. A plaintiff’s past wage loss damages include, but are not limited to, standard wages, paid vacation, bonuses, commission, and more.

Suppose, for example, that a car salesman is injured in an accident through no fault of his own. The injuries were severe, and as a result, treatment and recovery was slow. Therefore, the salesman had to take off nearly 2 months from work. The salesman asserts various damage claims, including a past wage loss claim. This wage loss should not only account for the lost wages over the course of those 2 months, but should also account for any lost commissions on the sale of cars – especially since commissions likely make up a substantial portion of the salesman’s total pay.

Pursuant to California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) 3903C, a plaintiff must present evidence of the past lost earnings in order to recover damages for such losses. In the above example, however, lost commissions are somewhat harder to measure as they may deviate from month-to- month. The plaintiff will likely be required to present evidence of personal commission trends and averages, and the lost commission during the 2-month period will be estimated to the closest extent.

Future Losses

Future wage loss is more difficult to measure. But despite this inherent difficulty, plaintiffs in the state of California are entitled to recover damages for future wage loss.   CACI 3903C provides helpful guidance. California personal injury plaintiffs must prove that their claimed future earnings (i.e., lost income, salary, wages, commissions, bonuses, etc.) are reasonably certain to be lost due to the injury. There are many elements to future wage loss claims that can complicate matters. To better understand, let’s use a quick example.

Suppose that you are injured in a slip and fall accident. The fall results in significant long-term back problems. You are a construction worker by trade, a highly physical career that requires you to be on your feet for most of the day. Thanks to the back problems you suffered, you will almost certainly have to reduce the amount of hours you can work per day. In fact, it could be argued that you will have to leave the construction trade behind entirely and seek a new trade. In effect, the back injury has caused you to lose some portion of your future earning capacity. In your present field, you almost certainly would make less money vis-à- vis your uninjured self. Further, unless you have a solid educational background and experience, you may not be able to seamlessly transition to another field with similar pay. For these reasons, you can make a legitimate future wage loss claim.

The problem with future wage loss claims is that you have to estimate your future losses. To some extent, future losses can be based on past data trends and market data in the job market at-large (for example, if you lose your job, you can reasonably estimate how much income you’d lose annually were you to transition to a different career, on average, by comparing your previous income to the regional average pay for viable target careers).   Future losses can be asserted successfully, but they must be based on reasonable data and your arguments must be persuasive.   If you have been injured and, as a result, have been forced to take time off of work, seek the consultation of a skilled personal injury attorney who will aggressively litigate your wage loss claims. Call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 539-9582 for a free consultation with an experienced Beverly Hills personal injury lawyer today.

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