Have you been hurt in a car accident in Kentucky? Your top priorities should be focusing on your health and tending to your injuries. But, when you’ve also got to worry about lost wages, you can’t ignore your money issues either.
As part of your accident claim, you may be able to recover lost pay from the other driver. To do so, you must provide proof of your loss. The Kentucky personal injury lawyers at Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson & Humphrey can help you collect the right evidence and present the strongest case possible.
No-Fault Car Insurance and Pure Comparative Negligence
Two major aspects of Kentucky car insurance laws can impact your right to pursue legal action: no-fault car insurance and pure comparative negligence laws.
Kentucky is a choice no-fault state. By default, drivers buy no-fault car insurance. In the event of a car crash, they file a claim with their own insurance company for damages but only up to a certain limit of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Additional damages, if certain thresholds are met, can be recovered from the at-fault driver. However, drivers may choose to opt out of no-fault insurance and buy fault-based coverage instead. When they do so, they gain the right to pursue damages from the other driver and their insurance provider. It also means they can be sued by the other driver too. It is rare that someone opts out of the no-fault system.
There are limits and exceptions to this car insurance dynamic. It’s best to speak with the car accident attorneys at Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson & Humphrey to clarify questions about your specific case.
The second aspect is that Kentucky is a pure comparative negligence state. When there is a car accident, fault is assigned as a percentage. One driver may be 30 percent at fault, and the other driver may be 70 percent at fault. The liability and settlement are proportional to the fault percentage. In the context of lost wages, even if you are 40 percent to blame for the crash, you can recover up to 60 percent of lost pay.
Your lawyer can work with you to reduce your fault percentage. This can then increase your potential payout.
Steps to Take to Prove Lost Wages After a Kentucky Car Accident
For a lawyer to be able to assist with your Kentucky car accident claim, there are a few steps you'll want to take to help ensure your wage loss is properly documented.
1. Obtain Medical Records and Proof of Injury
To file a personal injury claim, you must be injured and have proof of your injury. What’s more, to obtain lost wages, you must prove this injury is preventing you from working. Perhaps you’ve stopped working completely. Or, you work less or have a reduced ability to work. In all cases, it starts with showing the extent of the injury.
A physical injury is the most common example. You may no longer be able to work as a plumber with a broken arm. Or maybe a torn rotator cuff prevents you from driving your delivery truck safely. To justify your claim, you need medical records. Can your doctor provide an injury assessment? Are there hospital records for putting your broken arm in a cast?
Less visible injuries are equally legitimate. If you suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and now suffer from chronic headaches or vision problems, you may be unable to work as an office manager. Psychological injuries, like PTSD, can also be valid reasons for your claim. Whatever the injury, however, you need medical documentation to support your claim.
Medical records can describe the severity of the injury, plus how long it may take you to recover.
2. Keep Track of All Missed Work
How much work have you missed as a result of your injuries? Keep a detailed account of all the work days you missed because of the car crash. This can include doctor visits, but also just time spent resting at home. If you were unable to work, and thus unable to be paid, that counts.
A detailed record can serve as strong evidence for your claim. What days did you miss? Why did you miss them? Did you communicate with your manager or supervisor? What was said? The more detailed, the better.
3. Ask Your Employer for an Official Letter
Your own record for missed days is one part. Another big part can come from your employer. Ask if they can provide a statement on the company letterhead confirming your absence. The letter can list what days you missed. It can also state the reason: you were unable to work due to a car accident injury. Finally, the letter can describe the amount of wages you would have normally earned during that time.
This statement can help to establish the exact dollar amount as part of your claim or civil suit.
4. Collect Pay Stubs and Tax Returns
Context is important if you want to prove your lost wages after a car wreck in Kentucky. Your personal record and the company statement describe current lost wages. Past and present pay stubs, as well as tax returns, provide context.
Showing an earnings history makes it much easier to compare your wages before and after the car accident. You can arrive at a specific dollar amount for your lost wages by comparing your most recent paycheck to the one right after the accident. Depending on your job, you may also want to establish a history of non-salary payments, like tips. These count as lost wages too.
For self-employed people, you need proof of how much you would have expected to earn. Do you have signed contracts with customers that you could not fulfill? Comparing invoices from past years can also quantify your earnings history.
Beyond current lost wages, you may also seek damages for “lost earning capacity” if your injuries will limit your ability to earn money in the future. Working with an experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney can help you better assess your legal options.
What About Paid Time Off (PTO) or Vacation Time?
Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit in Kentucky can take time. This means it may be a while before you get any settlement money. In that time, you may choose to use accrued paid time off (PTO) at your employer. Perhaps, you have paid sick days or vacation time too.
Any money you get from PTO or similar does not count against your lost wages claim. You’ve earned this paid time. It’s a benefit you’re entitled to use. As part of your civil suit, you can pursue lost wages as if you did not receive any PTO. This is no different than any other lost income in the context of the car accident claim.