While medical costs after a personal injury can be substantial, they might actually be just a fraction of the true financial burden you’re facing. Lost earning capacity is another significant factor in many personal injury cases, and it’s one that’s all too easy to overlook in a personal injury lawsuit, especially if you don’t have the backing of a Huntsville, TX and Rockdale, TX personal injury lawyer.
What Is Lost Earning Capacity?
Lost earning capacity is different from lost wages, though those are important, too. Lost wages refer to the earnings you actually missed out on while recovering from an injury: wages you would have been making if you hadn’t been hurt and were at work as usual. These are fairly easy to calculate by simply looking at your normal working hours or paystubs.
Lost earning capacity reflects your decreased ability to earn income in the future due to long-term or permanent impairment. For instance, if you were a construction worker and suffered a severe spinal injury, you might not be able to return to your previous role. You might have to switch to a less demanding job, which may also come with reduced pay. This difference in potential earnings is lost earning capacity.
Determining Lost Earning Capacity
Assessing lost earning capacity requires putting together quite a few pieces to make a full picture. Factors your attorney will consider in coming up with a number include:
Since younger individuals generally have a longer working life ahead, their potential losses can be more financially significant when they suffer an injury that limits their future earning potential.
Education and Training
Your level of education and the specialized training you have pursued to be qualified for a role can impact what’s available to you post-injury. An individual with a doctorate may face different challenges than someone with a high school diploma.
A track record of consistent earnings helps your lawyer figure how much you might have earned if you had not been injured. This isn’t just the base numbers but also the trajectory of your income. If you were steadily making 3-4% more every year, for example, lost earning capacity should factor in this steady increase.
If there are big gaps in your employment history, a history of frequent job switches, or a history of unemployment, this can influence the assessment.
In addition to the tangible economic damages you have, like medical bills and lost wages, personal injury claims in Texas can also include noneconomic damages. While these don’t have a direct monetary value, they are significant. Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish are some examples of noneconomic damages.
These damages can sometimes be considered along with lost earning capacity. Imagine a pianist losing a finger or a writer going blind after an accident. While they might find other employment, the mental and emotional trauma, combined with the reduced earning potential, increases their overall suffering and should be taken into account.
How Texas Law Addresses Lost Earning Capacity
Texas law acknowledges the importance of lost earning capacity in personal injury claims. However, it’s also your job as the plaintiff (and the job of your lawyer) to prove this loss. You’ll need to produce documented evidence, expert testimonies, and clear demonstrations of how the injury has affected your ability to earn money.
Texas doesn’t have a cap on the amount that can be claimed for lost earning capacity, or for any economic damages, unlike some other states. This provides plaintiffs a better opportunity to claim a compensation that truly reflects their losses.
The Role of Medical Professionals
Your doctors and medical team, including any expert medical witnesses your lawyer may connect you with, all play a role in determining and proving lost earning capacity. Medical reports and prognoses provide clear evidence of the long-term effects of your injury, for example. And if a medical expert believes that your injury will result in chronic pain or a long-term disability that will greatly affect your ability to work and, consequently, your earning capacity, you will have a stronger case for a higher number.
For example, if you’re now required to use assistive devices or need regular breaks to manage pain, this could limit the types of work environments that are suitable for you or reduce your efficiency. Even if you can continue to work, you may never be able to return to the type of work you were doing before, and this may mean lower paychecks for the rest of your life. Those liable for your injuries should compensate you for this.
Challenges in Claiming Lost Earning Capacity
While Texas law allows for compensation for lost earning capacity, securing that compensation isn’t always straightforward and simple. Defense lawyers and insurance companies typically argue against these types of claims, as their goal is to minimize their payout. Some of the common arguments used include:
Alternative Employment Is Possible
The other side might argue that you can find alternative employment that pays similarly to the job you can no longer do, even with your injuries.
Pre-Existing Conditions Made Things Worse
If you had a pre-existing medical condition, the other side might argue that it, not the injury from the accident, is responsible, or primarily responsible, for your decreased earning capacity.
Records Aren’t Complete
Any inconsistency in your employment or medical records can be seized upon to undermine your claim. This is why having a good legal team on your side is so crucial. We understand all these tactics and have seen them before. We know how to counter them, and we’ll work diligently to ensure your rights and potential earnings are protected.
Seeking Compensation Beyond Immediate Needs
While medical bills and immediate losses might seem pressing, and they are, you don’t want to lose sight of the broader picture. Your life post-injury might look significantly different, not just medically, but also financially. Lost earning capacity addresses this long-term change, ensuring that you’re compensated not just for what you’ve lost now, but for what you might miss out on in the future.
When settlements are reached or awards are granted in personal injury cases, they’re structured to cover various damages, but it’s up to you and your legal team to make sure the settlement truly reflects your losses, both past, present, and ongoing. Recognizing how important lost earning capacity is to your future is thus only the first step. The next step is ensuring you receive fair compensation, and that requires an experienced legal team that understands the process and how to calculate your true losses, and who can back up your claims to secure your future.
Get Expert Help With Your Personal Injury Lawsuit in Huntsville, TX and Rockdale, TX
As you grapple with the uncertainties of the future after being injured, having the right legal representation can provide you with some peace of mind and allow you to concentrate on healing with the confidence that your attorny is working to promote your rights. Reach out to Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer for a free consultation, and get a personal injury expert on your side.