Understanding the Differences in Lost Wage Damages

When we are victims of personal injury, we tend to be aware of the kind and nature of damages that can be recovered. We often think of our out-of-pocket expenses, which often entail medical bills. We may think of lost wages, for time that we are forced to be at home instead of working. And of course, the intangible damages such as emotional injury, pain and suffering, or lack of enjoyment of life may come to mind.

But what many victims do not take into account are future earnings—that is, as the name implies, wages that we should have or could have earned, but now no longer can or will, because of our injuries.

Two Kinds of Future Wage Loss Claims

Maryland law recognizes two kinds of claims for loss of future income or income capacity.

The first kind is where someone who is making money in a profession now cannot earn that same money in the future. So, for example, someone who owns a construction business that was making $70,000 a year and now will not be able to take a full slate of construction jobs going forward has lost future wages.

That loss can be calculated easily. We can take what the worker made, subtract the income he or she will not be able to make, and multiply by a given number of years.

The other measure of damages is much more difficult to quantify. It involves the loss of earning capacity. This is income that the victim has not yet earned but probably would earn going forward but cannot because of the injury.

An example may be a college football player who projected as a future NFL player, who is injured in an accident. The player is not currently earning NFL money, but the injury now prevents him from earning a salary that he had the capacity to make later on. Yet, that future salary is not determined, so simple math can not be used to estimate the loss. Rather, experts must be called upon to provide testimony of what the earning capacity may be.

New Case Provides Some Guidance

The difference between the two is important as loss of earning capacity is capped at $500,000, whereas lost future earnings is not. The difference can be subtle.

Recently a Maryland court considered this issue in a case that involved a college student who was injured during a school activity. As a result, she was not able to work in her chosen field of kinesiology, and claimed lost future wages.

The court found that her claim was not that of loss of earning capacity, but was a future lost wage claim, and thus, was not capped. The Court found it persuasive that her loss of future income—the salary of a kinesiologist and the lower position she had to take because of the injury—could be mathematically calculated. Thus, the court allowed her to retain the entirety of her $2 million jury award.

If you are injured in Maryland make sure your attorney understands the entirety of the damages that you have sustained, and fights for a damage award that fully compensates you for your injuries. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your case.