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Guide to Claiming for Lost Earning Capacity in California

If you’ve been injured by a negligent party and it has affected your ability to work, one of the things you may be compensated for is “lost earning capacity.” This refers to the projected loss of your future earnings due to your diminished ability to work post-injury. It’s separate from “lost wages” because lost wages pertains to the earnings you’ve already lost during your missed work days.

Here, we explain the claim for lost earning capacity in California. For legal advice specific to your case, reach out to our experienced personal injury lawyers in San Diego.

How do I prove my lost earning capacity?

To prove your lost earning capacity, we need to establish how much you would have kept earning had you not been injured. Determining this amount may rely on projections or estimates, but the judge or jury will require a “reasonable certainty,” meaning your projections must be substantiated by evidence.

A common type of evidence to prove lost earning capacity is expert testimony. At Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers, we work with various professionals and specialists who can support your claim, including:

  • Doctors and therapists who can establish your impairment and how long it will last
  • A vocational specialist or an authority in your profession showing your work life expectancy, your valuable skills and experience, and what jobs are available to you post-accident
  • An economist or financial analyst who can identify income trends in your field, pinpointing what you could have kept earning in your previous job versus what you might be able to earn post-accident
  • Your pre-accident employer, if any, thus establishing your work performance and promotional opportunities before the injury.

How much can I get for lost earning capacity in California?

The amount awarded for lost earning capacity varies widely because of numerous factors. IIn each case, we have to consider things like:

  • Your salary in your previous job
  • Any promotions or raises you would have received
  • Your salary prospects post-accident
  • How long your impairment or disability will last
  • How many years before you reach retirement age.

Damages for lost earning capacity should also include other lost perks from your previous job such as allowances, overtime pay, bonuses, commissions, paid vacation days, and 401k contributions. Consult with us at Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers to see how we can maximize your claim for diminished earning capacity.

Can a non-working person claim for lost earning capacity in California?

Yes, an injured person who has no work history or was unemployed at the time of the accident may still claim compensation for lost earning capacity. What’s being compensated for is their future earning potential, not their past earnings. Further, they don’t need to provide proof of lost wages in order to claim for lost earning capacity.

If you were injured, for example, while you were a student in Music and your injury has permanently impaired your ability to play your instrument, we could make a reasonable estimate of how lucrative your career would have been if you could still play properly.

Another example is if you had left a job as a machine operator and were looking for another company to work for when your accident occurred. Even though you were in between jobs when you got injured, your experience as a former machine operator can still factor into a lost earning capacity claim.

Can I claim for lost earning capacity even if my injuries are temporary?

Yes, you may still claim for lost earning capacity even if your injuries are not permanent. If your impairment has not healed by the date of your settlement or trial, it’s possible for you to get an award. Talk to our personal injury attorney about how you can proceed if your impairment is temporary.

Can I claim for lost earning capacity even if I can do light work?

Yes, you can make a claim if your ability to work has been diminished but not completely lost. For instance, you may have had a supervisory role at your job before you got injured but now can only do some desk work. Or you may have previously worked in a high-paying field but have had to change your profession since your injury. We can calculate the difference between your previous and current salary levels, as well as the raises and bonuses that you may not be able to earn now.

What is the time limit for claiming lost earning capacity in California?

Your claim for lost earning capacity is included in your personal injury claim, so the timeframe to follow is that of personal injury cases. In California, the general statute of limitations (deadline) for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of injury. If you don’t file within two years, the judge may likely dismiss your case. Certain circumstances may extend or shorten this timeframe, so it’s best to consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can.

Contact a San Diego County Personal Injury Attorney

Many injured Californians have received maximum compensation through the high-quality legal services of Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers. Our firm has been serving Southern California for over 20 years, winning over $100 million in settlements and verdicts. We aggressively represent our clients until they receive the full compensation they deserve.

Consult with us for free about your potential claim. Call us today at (619) 550-1355.


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