Once a person is involved an accident, their number one priority is usually trying to physically recover from their injuries. Their next concern is typically their how they are going to pay their medical bills and their daily living expenses. As a Florida personal injury law firm, we are well aware of how this can be a troubling time for our clients. A lost wage claim is pretty standard in any personal injury case involving significant injuries. In many instances, this kind of claim is relatively easy and straightforward to assert; however, there are some instances where successfully making a wage loss claim can be very challenging.
Irregular, Seasonal, and Variable Wage Earning Provide A Challenge
In Florida, we frequently face trying to get our clients compensated for lost wages when a major part of their income is dependent on tips, bonuses or commissions. Many times, insurance companies base settlement offers for lost wages based upon wages that the injured person was earning near the time of an accident. However, many people who rely on these types of income experience variable compensation. For example, people who work at restaurants that are seasonal may have wages that vary widely from one part of the year to another. When a person is out of work for an extended time, wages based upon “down” times might not accurately reflect the actual losses. We often get into disputes with insurance companies about this.
How Not Declaring All Tip Income Limits A Florida Wage Loss Claim
Additionally, many of these clients do not report all of their income on their federal income taxes. Insurance companies and the lawyers that represent them almost always request income tax records pertaining to our clients in order to determine lost wages. Of course, if all of our clients’ income was not reported to the IRS, this often presents a dilemma for these clients. The “real” money that they earn and pay their bills with is often very different from the numbers that the IRS has.
Many clients will argue, “Well, I know how much I’ve ACTUALLY lost, so why does it matter what I reported on my taxes?” The issue with taking this position is that lawyers (and insurance companies) know that juries will almost never simpley take the Plaintiff’s word for a loss like this. Jurors expect a Plaintiff to be able to prove his or her wage loss, and rightly so. Our experience trying cases in front of juries is that they typically punish people who the jurors believe have not been responsible and paid taxes on all of their income. For that reason, when we get involved in a situation where it is clear that someone has not been accurately reporting their income to the IRS, we advise them that they will be limited to the IRS’ numbers. In extreme cases, we advise clients to drop their lost wage claims altogether.
We do, however, look at every case on an individual basis and are willing to meet with any potential clients to discuss their case, including wage loss claims. We do not want anyone whose income relies on tips, bonuses, or commissions to think they are not entitled to a lost wage claim. Please feel free to contact Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901 to discuss your potential case.