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A lawsuit in the wake of a car accident involves multiple types of damages. Plaintiffs seek recovery, for example, for medical expenses, for physical and emotional pain and suffering, for loss of enjoyment of life, and for lost income as a result of the accident. But sometimes that last category of damages—lost income—can be a bit tricky. For example, sometimes—and perhaps frequently given the current economic situation—a car accident victim may not have actually been working at the time of the accident. Perhaps they are temporarily between jobs for one reason or another. Or maybe the plaintiff’s work is only seasonal or periodic.

Whatever the reason, there are lots of situations that might mean on the day of the car accident, the plaintiff isn’t actually employed anywhere. What effect does this have on their recovery for lost income? There are actually two different types of damages to consider in this context: lost wages and lost earnings potential.

Lost wages is the amount of money the plaintiff would have earned between the time of the accident and the date the lawsuit ends. Even a plaintiff who was unemployed at the time of the accident might be able to recover lost wages if she can prove what could have been earned during that period of time. As an example, if a professional football player misses 1/2 of the next season because of an off season car wreck, a claim could be made for those games and weeks where they would have been employed under their NFL contract.

Loss of earning capacity, on the other hand, is a number that refers to how much money the plaintiff might have been able to make in the future if the accident had never happened. This is particularly relevant when the accident results in some sort of lifelong injury or disability that will limit the plaintiff’s ability to work in the future. So, even if a plaintiff was unemployed on the day of the accident, if they can prove that their ability to earn a living into the future has been compromised, then they will still be able to recover for loss of earning capacity.

In the end, how much a plaintiff’s unemployment status affects their recovery will depend on the conditions of their unemployment. That is, simply being unemployed doesn’t automatically prevent recovery. But questions about length of unemployment, reasons for unemployment, education and training levels, and previous work experience will all factor into how much recovery a plaintiff is owed. Herndon Virginia injury lawyer Doug Landau points out that, "while exact certainty is not realistic in many cases of future harms and losses, the law does require ‘reasonable proof’ to support of wage loss and earnings claims." Landau, of the Herndon law firm ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd., adds, "That is why showing your pre-crash earnings and work history can help prove post-crash economic loss claims." If you or someone you know or care for has been injured as the result of a car, truck, bicycle or motorcycle crash and there are questions about loss of income, earnings and future wages, e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555)

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