Loss of Earnings or Income

If you suffer a personal injury and are unable to return to work, you may be able to recover damages for loss of earnings damages from the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company because of the injury. Loss of earnings damages include wages you would have received if you had not sustained an injury and you were able to go to work.   In case of serious injuries, loss of earnings will often represent a significant portion of the recoverable damages.  Loss of earnings damages are addressed in New Mexico Uniform Jury Instruction 13-1803.  

Loss of earnings can result from a number of consequences related to the personal injuries.  You may sustain damages that require you to spend time in a hospital or receive surgery. In addition, you may need to undergo physical therapy or other rehabilitation before you can return to work. Therefore, while your injuries heal, you will be unable to work.   In any of these situations, there will be a loss of income on which you may make a claim.

There are some injuries that will prevent you from returning to work at all, or in the alternative, force you to seek other employment due to physical limitations resulting from the injuries.  If you are unable to return to work or you must work in a lower position or different job because of your injuries, you will want to make a claims for loss of future earnings. These too are addressed in UJI 13-1803.

The loss of income you can recover following a personal injury accident will vary according to your situation.  Generally, the plaintiff must be able to show that the injury sustained in the accident prevented the plaintiff from returning to work for some period of time.  To document the plaintiff’s claim for lost earnings, the defendant or the insurer will require complete set of medical records related to the accident.   Typically, to support a claims for lost earnings, these must include notes or other documentation from a doctor or other medical professional directing the plaintiff to restrict the plaintiff’s activities because of the injury.

In addition, the amount of work you miss will depend greatly on your job. For example, if you are a construction worker or your job involves physical labor, it may take you longer to recover and return to work than it will for someone who works at a desk for the majority of the day.   This too must be documented in the medical records.  

In addition to medical records, an injured plaintiff must provide a earnings history. In the case of permanent injury, the plaintiff must also prove future lost earnings.  This proof requires significant documentation of wage history.  In the case of future lost earnings, it is typically necessary to enlist the assistance of an expert economist.  

In short, calculation and proof of lost earnings can be quite challenging.  However, in cases of serious or permanent injury, it is an essential component of recoverable damages, and thus merits the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney.