The unfortunate truth is that a car crash can hurt not only you, but also your ability to work and earn an income. You can usually get compensation for your lost or reduced future earning capacity if you weren’t at fault. But how does the court figure out the amount?
In a recent case, Keith (not his real name) was hit from behind by a car that was also rear-ended by another vehicle going between 50 to 60 kms (that vehicle was at fault for the accident). Keith and his son’s car seats broke. Both their airbags deployed, and Keith lost consciousness. When he came to, he thought he was inside his burning home. He was taken to hospital by ambulance, some tests were done and he was later released.
At the court hearing some seven years later, Keith still had ongoing physical problems and, more significantly, psychological problems stemming from the accident.
His physical difficulties included neck, shoulder, back and right elbow pain, as well as occasional headaches, dizziness and nausea. These weren’t likely to improve in future. But professional medical and occupational assessments showed they weren’t as debilitating as Keith genuinely believed.
Before the accident, Keith had been healthy and free of physical or psychological conditions. Friends, business associates and family described him as outgoing, friendly and physically active. Now he was depressed, unmotivated and lacked initiative. His life focussed on the accident and his symptoms, which he treated extensively but honestly believed were getting worse.
For work, Keith had done construction and handyman work. He worked for himself, taking on jobs that came his way. He only had the equivalent of a high-school education, but he was bright and multi-talented – he taught himself how to install car audio systems, for example. Generally, he was satisfied with making a living that earned him about $20,000 a year, which gave him the flexibility and freedom for his other activities.
But after the accident, he never returned to work. In his mind, he was completely disabled from ever working again. Occupational assessments suggested, however, that he could probably return to work doing lighter tasks, part time at least.
To obtain compensation for your lost earning capacity after an accident, there must be a real and substantial possibility that your earning ability has been reduced or lost. Then the court has to compare what your likely future working life would have been with what your likely working future is now after the accident. The aim of this compensation is to put you in the same financial position you’d be in if you hadn’t been hurt. This isn’t a mathematical calculation but a judgment for the court to make, taking into account economic evidence.
Here, Keith, now 48, was awarded $250,000 for his future lost earning capacity.
Awards can be much higher though for younger, better educated accident victims with the potential for greater future earnings.
If you’re hurt in an accident, see your lawyer for advice.
Written by Janice and George Mucalov, LL.B.s as part of the YOU AND THE LAW series of articles, with assistance from Davidson Lawyers LLP. This article provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call us at 250-542-1177 for legal advice concerning your particular case. YOU AND THE LAW is a registered trademark.