In the United States, we’ve made significant strides in reducing motor vehicle crash deaths—so much so that it’s considered one of the great public health achievements of the last century. Yet, the hard truth is that over 40,000 people still lose their lives, and an additional million are injured each year on the road, according to the latest NHTSA statistics.
But beyond the headlines and statistics, there’s a less-discussed financial fallout that accident victims face: the loss of income. If you’re in Indiana and have been sidelined by a car accident, you’re not just dealing with physical injuries; you’re also wrestling with the financial strain of lost wages.
This article breaks down Indiana’s specific legal paths to help you recover the wages you’ve missed out on.
The Legal Process of Recovering Lost Wages After a Car Accident
Lost wages, a significant component of compensation claims post-car accidents, are governed by specific laws in Indiana.
The state’s legal code provides a clear framework for understanding and claiming lost wages, ensuring that affected individuals are adequately compensated for their financial losses.
Let’s start by getting an overview of what lost wages are and how they apply to car accident cases.
What Are Lost Wages Exactly?
Lost wages refer to the income that you, as a victim, are unable to earn due to the injuries resulting from the accident. This loss of income can have a profound impact on your financial stability and overall quality of life, and you deserve to claim compensation for it.
In the state of Indiana, the concept of lost wages is governed by the Indiana Code, which establishes the possibility of receiving economic compensation for:
- Inability to work.
- Medical appointments and recovery.
- Lost opportunities.
- Lost earning capacity.
How Do Lost Wages Apply to Car Accidents?
In the wake of a car accident, the financial repercussions can be far-reaching, particularly when your ability to work is compromised. Lost wages are a form of damages that you can claim from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Thus, if you’ve been injured in a car accident and had to miss work, you have the right to compensation for the income you’ve lost. To initiate the process of recovering lost wages, the first step is to file a car accident claim.
What You Need to Know About Lost Wages Claims in Indiana
In Indiana, the legal landscape surrounding lost wages claims is structured to ensure that victims of car accidents can receive fair compensation.
That’s why if you are going to start a lost wages claim, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with these laws to understand your rights and the process of making a claim.
Indiana Laws on Lost Wages Claims
The Indiana Code establishes the rules and guidelines for lost wages claims, offering a clear framework within which individuals can seek reparation for the financial hardships they’ve endured. For example, the car accident statute of limitations in Indiana poses a very clear timeframe within which you can file a lawsuit.
However, keep in mind that the amount of compensation you can recover will depend on the specifics of your case. One of these specifics is your degree of fault in the accident.
How Fault Affects Your Lost Wages Claim
Indiana operates under a “modified comparative fault” system (Indiana Code § 34-51-2-5). This means that your ability to recover lost wages and other damages will depend on your degree of fault in the accident.
If you’re found to be more than 50% at fault, you won’t be able to recover any damages. If you’re less than 50% at fault, you can file a claim with the other driver’s car insurance. To do this, an adjuster will investigate the crash, determine the fault, and either reject the application or calculate a settlement.
So, should you get a lawyer for a car accident that wasn’t your fault? The answer is generally yes. In many cases, the initial settlement offered by the insurance company undervalues victims’ pain, comfort, lost wages, and expenses. That’s why consulting a lawyer is recommended, before accepting any settlement or compensation.
The Process of Making a Lost Wages Claim
1. Document Your Lost Wages
The first step in making a lost wages claim is to document your lost income. This includes gathering pay stubs, W-2 forms, tax returns, and any other proof of your regular income. If you’re self-employed, you may need to provide business records or invoices.
It’s also a good idea to get a letter from your employer confirming your employment status, your regular hours, and the time you’ve missed due to the accident.
2. Calculate Your Lost Wages
Once you have all the documentation, you’ll need to calculate your lost wages. This includes not only the wages for the actual time you’ve missed but also any lost opportunities for overtime or bonuses. If your injuries have affected your ability to work in the future, you may also be able to claim for lost earning capacity.
3. File Your Claim
After calculating your lost wages, the next step is to file your claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. This typically involves submitting your wage documentation and a written claim for your lost wages. It’s important to be thorough and accurate in your claim to maximize your chances of a successful recovery.
If the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, the Indiana Code § 27-7-5-4 also allows for recovery of damages, including lost wages, from the insured’s own insurance policy. This process can be daunting, so you should know that an Indianapolis car accident lawyer will handle the insurance company on your behalf.
Seeking Legal Help for Lost Wages Claims
Making a lost wages claim after a car accident can be difficult, especially if you are also dealing with injuries and loss of income. In this situation, a personal injury attorney can help you navigate the legal process and negotiate with insurance companies to secure a fair settlement.
At Christie Farrell Lee & Bell, we’ve successfully handled car accident cases in Indiana for 40+ years. We’re based in Indianapolis, but if you need a car accident lawyer in Fort Wayne, for example, we can help. Contact our injury attorneys today and get a FREE legal consultation to evaluate yours!