If you have suffered injuries in a car accident caused by someone else, compensation for any lost earnings is a given as long as you prove your case. Claims don’t enforce themselves, however, and you will have to fight for whatever compensation you receive.
How California’s Car Accident Compensation System Works
California is an “at-fault” auto insurance state, so you can immediately file a third-party personal injury claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance company after an accident. You can also file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver without meeting the legal qualifications that “no-fault” states require.
Minimum Auto Insurance Coverage
California’s mandatory minimum auto insurance is relevant because, unless the at-fault driver is uninsured or from another state, California’s mandatory insurance represents the minimum resources available to pay your claim. California drivers must carry at least:
- $15,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $5,000 property damage liability
These limits are low compared to the limits imposed by most other states. Self-insurance is also possible with the payment of a $35,000 bond.
California is a “pure comparative fault” state. In a car accident lawsuit, the court will apportion fault to each party on a percentage basis. For example, it might apportion 20% of the fault to you and apportion 80% of the fault to the other driver.
In this case, you would pay 20% of your own damages and 20% of the other driver’s damages. They would pay 80% of your damages and 80% of their own damage. Unlike other states, there is no cutoff beyond which a party receives nothing. Comparative fault is relevant because it limits the compensation you can receive from all components of your claim, including lost earnings.
Counting Up Your Compensation
Your compensation might be more than you expected. You should seek compensation for the following components of your lost earnings:
- Earnings that you lost while you were hospitalized;
- Wages that you lost while you were recuperating at home;
- Earnings that you lost because you needed to take off time from work due to medical appointments; and
- Earnings that you received for sick leave and vacation leave. Even though you might have received payment for these days, you deserve compensation because these sick leave and vacation days are no longer available to you.
You should claim incidental expenses, such as child care, under another category of losses.
Proving Lost Earnings
One of the best ways to prove your lost earnings is through a letter submitted by your employer. The letter should explain the calculations in detail. You could also submit:
- Your most recent W-2s;
- Your most recent tax returns; or
Your healthcare provider can help you prove how many work days you missed.
Special Case: Self-Employed Persons
Proving your lost earnings is more complicated if you are self-employed because the income of self-employed people varies monthly. Here are some ways to prove your income:
- Last year’s tax return, if your income is stable from year to year;
- Invoices you submitted to clients;
- Payments received from clients; and
- Printouts of correspondence to prove how many meetings you canceled.
If you go to trial, you must prove your lost earnings by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This legal standard is much easier to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that courts use to decide criminal prosecutions. The “preponderance of the evidence” standard will also matter in settlement negotiations because parties tend to settle based on what they believe a court would do.
Special Case: Diminished Earning Capacity
If you suffered a catastrophic injury, you might never be able to work at your previous occupation again. In that case, you will need to calculate future damages. Often, injured parties need to retain an expert witness to help them calculate and prove future damages.
Seek a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
An experienced personal injury attorney should have won reimbursement for lost earnings on behalf of many previous clients. This experience is particularly important if you suffered a long-term injury and seek future damages. A skilled lawyer will also have the ability to win non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, which could amount to even more than compensation for lost earnings.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles car accident lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.