Recovery Of Loss Of Earning Capacity Damages In Physical Injury Cases

Permanent physical injuries from car accidentsmotorcycle accidents, and other types of accidents, such as those involving trains and railroad crossingspremises liabilityproducts liabilitytrucks, or drunk driving can cause more than just future medical expenses and pain and suffering.  Permanent injuries can also affect your ability to work and earn money in the future, perhaps causing you to reduce your working hours or leave your current job completely.  In such situations Iowa law allows you to recover damages for your loss of future earning capacity. 

The impairment to future earning capacity is measured by the reduction in the value of the power to earn.  Damages for loss of future earning capacity are determined by the difference between the value of an individual's services, if working, as the person would've been but for the injury, and the value of the services of an injured person, if working, in the future.   Impairment of physical capacity creates a presumption of lessened earning ability in the future.  There is no fixed rule for estimating the amount of damages for loss of future earning capacity.  Among the factors a jury may consider in awarding impairment of earning capacity is the plaintiff's past earnings.

Your medical records, deposition, and the other information you provide as part of your legal claim will be the starting point for analysis of your lost earning capacity.  Pertinent information includes your education and training, work and wage history, physical issues before the accident, and your physical issues after the accident and how they have affected your daily life and your ability to work or work as much or as fast as you did before the injury.  People need to know about you and your background before they can begin evaluating the monetary value of your lost earning capacity.

You'll need assistance from your doctors to prove loss of earning capacity.  A doctor needs to evaluate whether you have a permanent injury.  It's common in this regard for doctors to assign an "impairment rating," a percentage that describes the degree of your physical impairment caused by the permanent injury in relation to your normal bodily status and functionality, meaning the amount that it'll restrict you in certain physical activities.  The impairment rating can in turn be used to evaluate your "disability," which is the physical consequences of the impairment. 

A vocational expert witness is also often used to help prove loss of earning capacity.  A vocational expert can provide an actual present day monetary value for your lost earning capacity.  Vocational experts consider a number of factors in arriving at that figure.  The information provided by your doctor, described above, is used.  Private and government research and statistics about the labor force are consulted too.  A vocational expert will normally also meet with you to conduct written and physical testing that provides additional information relevant to the earning capacity analysis.  In the end, using all of that information the vocational expert will calculate a percentage that your earning capacity has been diminished because of your physical injuries.  Applying that percentage against what you would have been expected to earn were you fully functional and worked through the remainder of your natural working life, the vocational expert is then able to calculate a dollar value for your lost earning capacity.        

Harley Erbe