Economic Damages in Personal Injury Claims: Loss of Earnings


It is a widely accepted notion that a person who suffers injuries and damages due to the wrongful conduct of another should be “made whole.” Whatever the wrongful conduct may be, the expectation of the aggrieved person is that he will be placed by the wrongdoer in as good a position as he was prior to the wrongful conduct, to the greatest extent practicable. In the context of a personal injury claim arising from another’s negligence, this expectation would include the recovery of economic damages. Economic damages are those damages which are objectively verifiable, and include medical expenses, loss of earnings, loss of use of property, cost of replacement and repair, loss of employment, and loss of business opportunities. Economic damages are recoverable to the extent that they can be proven. Accordingly, it is very important to compile as much evidence as possible to support claims for economic damages. In this article, we explore how to prove a loss of earnings claim.

In presenting a loss of earnings claim, one seeks to recover wages/earnings lost due to physical injury caused by another. To recover loss of earnings, one must establish that he was injured, and that the injury resulted in an inability to work, a reduction in ability to work, or inability to perform certain aspects of his job. Normally, this can be established by medical records such as a release from work slip, or medical records indicating instructions to restrict work activities. Medical records are very helpful in presenting a loss of earnings claim in that it provides a medical assessment that one is unable to work or has reduced ability to work. If the medical provider has orally instructed the person to not work or to restrict work activities, it is important to consult with the medical provider to amend the chart notes to reflect those instructions.

Typically, medical providers do not provide a release from work to those self-employed, but medical records should record work restrictions placed by his medical provider. For one self-employed, it is very important to indicate to his medical provider the full extent and nature of his job duties, so that the medical provider may provide a comprehensive record on how the injuries may affect his work.

Once one has established his inability to work or restricted ability to work, the next step involves valuating the lost earnings. A letter from the personnel department where one is employed that summarizes the amount of time that one has lost as a result of his injury, the loss of benefits, and the rate of pay during the time of loss can be very helpful in valuating lost earnings. Other documents that may be presented in support of the value of lost earnings include pay stubs , time cards, tax returns, and social security earnings information. The value of sick leave and vacation time that are used because of injuries resulting from the wrongful conduct are also recoverable. If one is self-employed, history of earnings as evidenced by tax returns, profit and loss statements, and account books can help establish the value of lost earnings.

In a personal injury claim, it is essential to determine what damages are recoverable, and know the methods of proving those damages. It is therefore advised that a person who has suffered injuries consult with an experienced attorney to get maximum recovery.

Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does not create any attorney client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. This article is not a solicitation.

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes was President of the Philippine American Bar Association for 2005. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive former CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail; visit at

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