Personal Injury Settlement Lost Wages Injury Law
I am a 28-year-old auto mechanic and the sole support for my wife and two young children. I was hit by a drunk driver and permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Will a settlement factor in my inability to work at my previous job and also the the high likelihood that I will not be able to earn as much now?
It is difficult to state with certainty how your particular case will be assessed. Your settlement will compensate you for the fact that you will have to change occupations, but only to the extent that your new occupation is lower paying and that you may not be able to work as long due to your disability. Here is an example with some fictitious figures and facts that might help:
Suppose John is in the same situation. He was in the hospital following the accident for 6 weeks until he could come home. He is permanently in a wheelchair and, even though he can move his upper body, he can no longer perform the functions required of a mechanic, like bending and crawling under cars. He is a gifted mechanic and would like to somehow stay in the business. He also has a wife and two young children, ages 3 and 5. His wife does not work outside the home. Now there won’t be any chance of her going to work because, at least for the time being, John will need care 24/7 for at least 6 months, unless they hire someone to provide home care. John’s lost earning capacity less the amount of money he eventually may be able to earn in a different job will be part of his economic compensation. It is speculative, because no one knows what kind of job John will end up with ultimately. Loss of earning capacity also takes into account one’s age, level of education, skills, experience and previous employment history. An attorney or forensic economist would use work-life expectancy tables to determine how long a work life John will have based on analysis of normal life expectancy and reduced life expectancy. Here are some sample figures:
Hospital/Medical bills$ 124,000
Wage loss for 6 weeks in hospital$ 6,000
Medicines (including future)$ 90,000
Lost earning capacity (over normal work life to age 65 adjusted for inflation & for ed., skills, etc.) $2.22 mil
Less salary he will earn in future (e.g., managing auto shop front office to age 50) ($ 880,000)
Difference in retirement and benefits$ 650,000
Home medical care if wife has to work (less wife’s income as teacher)$ 896,000
Home medical care if wife doesn’t work $1.6 mil
Social Security Disability Insurance (until able to work–about 6 months)$ 5,200
Social Security Disability Insurance income (if working in other occupation) $ 0
Potential total economic damages$3,815,200
Loss of consortium$ 500,000
Inconvenience and Pain and Suffering$5 mil – $8 mil
Total settlement range $9.3 mil – $12.3 mil
Please note that John’s wife may also sue for loss of consortium. Again, this is based on limited information and is an example of a possible calculation of a settlement based on fictitious figures and facts. Your individual case may vary from this substantially.
If you lived in Louisville, Kentucky, the amount might be substantially lower than if you lived in Boston. In addition, some states have put a cap on non-economic damages and the amount for loss of consortium, inconvenience, and pain and suffering would be limited.
For information on how to value your specific claim, and to find out if your state has a limit on non-economic damages, contact a personal injury attorney in your area. Economic damages when long-term earning capacity is at stake can be tricky. Be sure your lawyer has experience in this area.
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