Employed individuals who are injured in an automobile accident are often allowed to recover for lost wages caused by the accident.
Proving Lost Wages
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Most automobile insurance policies contain a policy of Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Notable exceptions are motorcycles, buses, taxi cabs, and situations where the insured signed a written waiver. PIP is typically $2,500.
PIP insurance covers the occupants of the vehicle. Anyone injured in an accident can make a claim to the PIP insurer for lost wages, and can recover 85% of income lost from inability to work. Many insurers request permission to speak directly to the victim’s employer to verify lost wage information. We find that typically a written statement from the employer, containing number of days/hours missed and the hourly wage/salary, is sufficient proof when the amount of missed time is on the low end (a couple of days).
When time off lasts a week or more, many insurance adjusters also require disability notes from a doctor in order to reimburse lost wages. It is important for patients to request these notes from their doctors at every visit.
For settlement purposes, most defense lawyers and insurance adjusters accept the same types of proof used for PIP. They are typically content with some sort of employer statement and disability notes from the doctor. Because of the collateral source rule, a victim can recover for lost wages even if those wages were already paid with PIP, sick time or vacation time.
At trial, the lawyer and the plaintiff will have to make the decision about what evidence to submit to the judge or jury. For reasons related to evidentiary rules, a written statement by the employer might not be admissible at trial. A doctor can testify about disability notes, and the victim can testify directly about his lost time and wages. However, if there are a significant amount of lost wages, it is sometimes more persuasive for an employer or human resources officer to testify at trial about the lost wages. Again, the collateral source rule permits a plaintiff to double-recover for lost wages, even if he was paid by PIP, or used sick or vacation time.
It is not illegal for undocumented workers (“illegal aliens”) to work in the United States, but it is illegal for employers to hire these workers. Undocumented workers can therefore recover for their lost wages as well. Even though they do not have social security numbers, the IRS will provide them with Individual Tax Identification Numbers so that they can pay taxes.