A victim of a Louisiana accident can make a lost wage claim against the defendants as part of the victim’s personal injury claim. For example, a person injured in a car accident can make a claim against the at-fault driver and his or her car insurance company for: a) pain and suffering; b) loss of enjoyment of life; c) emotional suffering; d) medical bills; and, e) lost wages. This article discusses claims for lost wages and how they are proved in court and for purposes of settlement.
Past Lost Wages: In Louisiana, a person that causes an injury to another is obligated to repair the resulting damages. See La. C.C. art. 2315. Thus, if a person cannot work as the result of an accident, the at-fault party or company must pay the victim his or her lost wages for time missed from work due to accident related injuries. To recover lost wages, the victim or his or her attorney must submit to the defendants the following documentation:
- the amount of the victim’s regular wages immediately before the accident (pay stubs, W-2’s, tax returns, payroll records);
- the victim’s job description (including physical requirements of the job);
- medical documentation showing that the victim could not return to work after the accident (doctor’s note, disability slip); and,
- proof of how much time the victim missed from work as a result of the accident (wage records from after the accident).
It is important that the plaintiff (accident victim) calculate how much money is owed as the result of the lost time and that the amount claimed is corroborated with the documentation submitted. It is best that a plaintiff consult with an experienced attorney to make sure the proper calculations are made and that supporting documentation is provided.
Future Lost Wages: Louisiana law also allows a plaintiff to recover for future lost wages. Thus, if a person is injured in an accident and cannot return to work and will not be able to return to work in the foreseeable future, the defendants (person or company responsible for causing the debilitating injury) will be responsible for paying the plaintiff for future wages that the plaintiff will not be able to earn after settlement or trial as the result of the accident. The following documentation must be submitted:
- medical records proving that the plaintiff will be unable to work in the future;
- plaintiff’s job descriptions (including physical requirements of the job);
- plaintiff’s typical yearly income before the accident; and,
- plaintiff’s life expectancy or work-life expectancy.
Evidentiary Issues: The proof described above must be genuine and trustworthy. The documentation submitted as part of the victim’s lost wage claim must be admissible in court. Plaintiffs that do not pay their income taxes will have a hard time proving lost wages because jurors and judges are not sympathetic to people that do not pay their taxes. So, it is best that an accident victim produce his or her tax returns as part of his or her lost wage claim. Plaintiff’s doctor’s opinion that plaintiff cannot return to work or is limited from returning to work must be expressed in the medical records and also introduced at trial as expert testimony. Additionally, the wage and payroll records and job description must be authenticated before being admitted into evidence. Typically, the custodian of records of the plaintiff’s employer will testify as to the authenticity of the employer’s records. Once these records are introduced into evidence they can be reviewed by the jury during deliberations. Finally, other standard evidence used to support lost wage claims are reports and testimony from vocational rehabilitation counselors and economists, and functional capacity exams (FCE) are also often undergone by plaintiffs, and the results of the exams are submitted in court to show plaintiff’s physical limitations post-accident.
If you have questions about a wage claim or other aspect of personal injury, please contact Lawyer Don D’Aunoy Jr. today: 504-508-6414. Lawyer Don regularly represents clients in Metairie, New Orleans, Kenner and other southeast Louisiana cities.