Claiming Lost Wages after a Personal Injury Accident

The attorneys at Lipkin & Apter tackle your questions about lost wages and personal injury cases. Are you entitled to make a claim for loss of earnings even if you have been compensated from accrued personal time, disability benefits, etc?

Reasonable Compensation

A basic principle of tort law (the branch of law dealing with accidents and injuries) is that an accident victim be made “whole” by receiving fair and reasonable compensation for his injuries. That is, the law recognizes the obvious impossibility of going back in time and preventing a personal injury from occurring. Accepting this limitation, the law equates reasonable compensation with correcting the harm caused by a defendant’s negligence.

Compensation for Injuries and Damages

Justice requires a defendant to compensate an accident victim in direct proportion to the injuries and damages they have caused. So if a plaintiff is negligently injured and incurs $5,000 in medical bills and loses two months from work where he earns $3,000 a month, justice requires the defendant to pay the plaintiff $11,000 ($5,000+$3,000+$3,000). The same outcome will exist without respect to caps or artificial limitations on recoverable damages. If a negligently injured person incurs $50,000 in medical bills, and loses 2 months of work at $3,000 per month, justice would require the defendant to pay $56,000.

In addition to these compensation categories of economic damage, there are other non-economic categories of damage – pain and suffering and disability – which are not of present concern.

Compensation for Accrued Vacation, Disability Benefits

When a person is injured and loses two months of work for which he receives no pay, it is easy to see where the defendant ought, in fairness, to reimburse the plaintiff for this harm. What happens though when the same wrongfully injured person loses two months from work but receives all or part of the money he would have earned from his employer because of accrued vacation pay, sick or personal time, disability benefits or employer generosity? Is this person still entitled to make a claim for lost wages?The answer is an unqualified “Yes”. In Illinois, a plaintiff is entitled to recover the full value of time lost from work without regard to benefits received from his employer. Boden v. Crawford, 552 N.E.2d 1287 (1990). The explanation for this rule is that the wrongdoer should not profit from insurance or other expenses made by the injured party or take advantage of relationships that may exist between the injured party and others.

In this Illinois personal injury case, although the plaintiff was away from work six weeks following an accident and received pay from his employer for this time because he cashed in vacation and sick leave, he would still be able to claim his full lost wages from the defendant. Simply put, a plaintiff should not have to forfeit benefits that he has acquired for the sake of the defendant who wrongfully caused his injuries.

Under the Collateral Source Rule long adhered to in Illinois, evidence of an injured person who had received benefits from a source “wholly” independent of and collateral to the wrongdoer, is inadmissible and “will not diminish damages otherwise recoverable form the wrongdoer.” Arthur v. Catour, 216 Ill.2d 72 (Ill. 1005).

Contact Lipkin & Apter online or call our Chicago, IL office at (312) 624-9342 if you would like our team to review your case.