The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Lost Wages After a Car Crash

After a car wreck, you may have to take time off work due to the injuries you sustain.  When you have to take time off from work, you still have bills to pay and expenses, and you may be wondering how you will meet all of your obligations while your personal injury case is pending.

Utah law allows you to recover some lost wages while you are receiving treatment for your injuries, and before your case settles.  Under the Utah Personal Injury Protection statute, you are entitled to “the lesser of $250 per week or 85% of any loss of gross income and loss of earning capacity per person from an inability to work, for a maximum of 52 consecutive weeks” once you have missed three days of work [1]. 

So how would this work in a real-life situation?

Suppose Ann works 20 hours per week making $9.00 per hour.  Ann’s gross weekly income is $180.00.  Therefore, under the lost wages statute, Ann would be entitled to 85% of $180 per week, or $153.00.

Suppose Ben works 40 hours per week at $8.50 per hour.  Ben’s gross weekly income is $340.00 per week, so he would be entitled to the statutory maximum of $250.00 per week.  Likewise, Celeste whose gross weekly income is $2,500 per week in salary would be entitled to the statutory maximum of $250.00 per week. 

Although the statute may seem extremely unfair to Ben and Celeste who cannot receive lost wages under the Personal Injury Protection statute, Ben and Celeste would still be able to sue the at-fault driver for lost past and future earning capacity.  [2]

Can everyone receive lost wages?

The short answer is no.  Most insurance companies require proof of your income and a doctor’s note stating that you are off work as a result of injuries directly related to your car crash.  Additionally, Utah law allows you to waive lost wage coverage.  [3]  We never recommend that anyone employed in any capacity waive coverage.  Additionally, insurers may offer enhanced coverage for higher wage earners like Ben and Celeste [4], and we strongly encourage those with higher incomes to ask their insurance company about the cost and availability of such a benefit.

What are my rights?

 Each situation is different.  An experienced personal injury attorney can examine your insurance coverage and tell you whether you are entitled to receive lost wage benefits while your case is pending, and how much those benefits will be.

[1]Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-307(1)(b)(i).

[2] Corbett v. Seamons, 904 P.2d 229 (Utah App. 1995)

[3] Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-307(4).

[4] Utah Code Ann. 31A-22-307(5)(a)