UTAH CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEY JAKE GUNTER
Often when you are injured in a Utah car collision, you can’t work. If you can’t work, you can’t pay for your needed medical treatment, support your family, or pay your bills. This is a real problem. Hiring a Utah personal injury attorney early can help alleviate your lost wage problem.
The following is a list of things that can help you better understand and navigate the sometimes confusing aspects of a lost wages claim.
PIP (Personal Injury Protection) benefits may help pay for your lost income because you cannot work. PIP benefits are not a dollar-for-dollar benefit, and it has a maximum cap on how much you may receive.
The statutory language at Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-307(b)(I) (2020) for a wage loss reads:
“(b)(I) “the lesser of $250 per week or 85% of any loss of gross income and loss of earning capacity per person from inability to work, for a maximum of 52 consecutive weeks after the loss, except that this benefit need not be paid for the first three days of disability, unless the disability continues for longer than two consecutive weeks after the date of injury”. See these articles for more information on PIP Benefits.
Obvious incapacitating injuries, such as an amputation, eye injury, etc, will trigger the wage loss provisions with your insurance, but sometimes you will need to get a doctor’s note regarding the injury and present it to the PIP insurance adjuster.
Obtaining Back Wages from a Car Collision:
Even though you may be recovering lost wages from your own car insurance carrier, you can still claim back lost wages from the at-fault car who hit you. Your claim against the at-fault carrier is greater than the capped 52 weeks of lost wages available under your PIP benefits. Further lost wages claimed against the 3rd party at-fault carrier/person is for the full amount, not just $250 or 85%, whichever is lower.
Example: You are rear-ended on I-15 in Salt Lake County and you are the driver. You can’t work for the first 6 months of your recovery because you were in the hospital incapacitated. You were making $10,000 gross per month. Your own car insurance carrier may pay you $250 per week for the 6 months that you couldn’t work. In addition to your own insurance’s $250 per week wage loss benefits, you can also make a wage loss claim against the at-fault insurance carrier of the car that rear-ended you for $10,000 per month.
NOTE: If you are in the hospital for 6 months, chances are you have severe permanent physical and mental injuries which would require your Utah car collision injury attorney to make a claim for “future impaired capacity to work.” Future lost wages and future impaired capacity to work are different and separate categories of damages sometimes claims in Utah car collisions. We will discuss that later below.
Example: You are a passenger in a Utah rear-end car collision on State Street in Orem. You can still work, but you can’t work your normal 50 hours per week as a nurse due to your injuries. Instead, you can only work 30 hours per week. This work wage loss is incurred for the first 6 months of your recovery. Your Utah personal injury attorney would obtain a doctor’s note indicating your injuries and how it relates to your inability to work a full shift. Documentation of the wage loss would be presented first to your own car PIP insurance carrier, and later to the at-fault insurance carrier of the person who hit you.
Back Pay for Attending Medical Appointments:
You are also entitled to the back lost wages and mileage you incurred when you attended medical appointments. You simply document these items on a ledger and present it to your Utah car collision attorney. Sometimes a note from your boss will help facilitate the payment and proof process.
How to Keep Track of Lost Wages as an Hourly Worker:
If you are an hourly worker and need to keep track of potential lost wages, you simply keep a time ledger of your lost time. Once you have written all of your missed time on a sheet, you can provide this to your Utah personal injury attorney for submission with your insurance claim. You will also need verification from your employer regarding your hourly wage.
How to Keep Track of Lost Wages as a Salaried Worker:
With salaried injured workers, you take your monthly salary and break it down into what the hourly rate would be on a 40 hour work week. Then, for each hour missed, you apply that broken down hourly rate to obtain a lost wage monetary amount.
Example: You are injured in a Utah car collision in Salt Lake City. You make $6,000 per month. You work 40 hour per week. 40 hours per week for a 4 week month is 160 hours per month roughly. $6,000 per month divided by 160 hours comes out to $37 per hour. If you missed 10 hours per week, weekly that would be $375 in lost wages for the salaried injured worker.
How to Keep Track of Lost Wages as a Commissioned Worker:
Commission-only injured workers are much more difficult to calculate. Commission-only workers can have high months, high seasons, and often variable income streams. One way of computing back lost wages for a commission-only worker is to look at their historical average over the years or months prior to the Utah car collision. W2s, past tax returns, and past paystubs are very useful in determining historical averages for presenting lost wages claims to insurance adjusters.
Future Impaired Capacity to Work:
Unfortunately, some people are so injured in a collision that they can’t work at all. Or, so injured they can no longer work in their chosen career. An example would be a professional singer with a jaw injury who now is unable to sing anymore. Another example is a surgeon whose hands are injured, requiring him to transfer into a non-surgical medical specialty.
Lost future capacity to work captures the difference over the injured person’s lifetime, and the income stream the person would have had compared to what it is now.
Example: A surgeon is making $500,000 per year doing knee surgeries. His hands were injured in a car collision and he must switch to dermatology where he only makes $150,000 per year. He is 35 years old. A good Utah personal injury attorney will attempt to capture the difference in the income stream over his lifetime.