Last Updated on February 16, 2024

What Counts as Lost Wages?

Lost wages refer to income that is lost due to an injury or accident that prevents someone from working. For many people who suffer injuries, lost wages can be one of the largest expenses and most stressful parts of the recovery process.

In the US, 2.4 million workers lose $8 billion annually (an average of $3,300 per year for year-round workers). That is why it is essential to understand lost wages and know your options when it comes to recouping this lost income.

What Are Lost Wages?

Lost wages compensate accident victims for the income they would have earned if they had not been injured. This includes:

  • Hourly or salary wages
  • Overtime pay
  • Tips
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Employee benefits

Lost wages are calculated from the time you became unable to work due to an accident up until the time you are medically cleared to return to work. The amount of lost wages depends on your income before the accident and how long you are out of work recovering.

It is important to understand that lost wages are different from loss of earning capacity. Lost earning capacity relates to potential future income losses from long-term disabilities or permanent injuries.

Legal Framework Surrounding Lost Wages

There are some key laws and regulations that govern how lost wages are addressed:

  • Workers’ compensation laws - These provide wage replacement benefits for employees injured on the job. Rules vary by state.
  • No-fault insurance laws - In no-fault states, lost wages may be paid by your own auto insurance company up to the state limit.
  • Damages through personal injury claims - Lost wages are a common element of compensation sought through injury lawsuits.

Insurance policies also play a major role. Health insurance, disability insurance, and auto insurance may help replace lost wages, depending on the circumstances of your accident and coverage.

It is important to understand your state's laws as they relate to recovering lost wages. Consulting with a personal injury attorney at the Porter Law Group can help navigate state-specific regulations. 

Lost Wages in Different Accident Scenarios

Lost wage claims can become complex depending on the specifics of your accident and injury. Here are some examples:

  • Long-term disabilities - If an injury causes permanent limitations that affect your earning capacity, calculating lost income becomes more complicated. Vocational experts may be needed to make projections.
  • Changing careers after injury - An injury may prevent you from returning to your previous occupation. Re-training for a new career can result in short and long-term lost wage claims.
  • Self-employment - For small business owners or independent contractors, lost income includes both wages and business losses from an inability to work.
  • Multiple jobs - Some people hold two or more jobs that need to be factored in.
  • Salaried workers - Those paid an annual salary may still have lost overtime, bonuses, benefits, and commissions.

These complex cases require a deeper look at past earnings, projections of future losses, and expert opinions to calculate lost wages accurately.

Claiming Lost Wages

While minor lost wage claims can sometimes be handled independently, it is wise to seek professional legal help for more substantial or complex claims. An experienced personal injury or workers' compensation attorney has the skills to accurately calculate lost income and negotiate for fair compensation.

Lost wages are often one of the largest financial impacts of an accident. But with the right documentation, calculation of losses, and legal help if necessary, you can seek fair restitution for your lost income.

If you have suffered lost wages, do not hesitate to explore your options and file a strong claim. With the proper tools and support, you can gain the income replacement you need to move forward. Need expert legal guidance after an accident? Contact the Porter Law Group! Discuss your claim and explore options for recovering lost wages. Call 833-PORTER9 or send a message to to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Written By
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
Legally Reviewed on February 12, 2024
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Michael S. Porter on February 12, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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