The aftermath of a car accident can be devastating, especially if you sustain injuries that prevent you from working. With the cost of medical expenses piled on top of your other financial obligations, losing your paycheck for any amount of time can put you in a difficult position. However, a South Dakota car accident attorney can make your recovery easier by helping you through the process of reaching a settlement after a car accident. Here are some of the things that you can expect when you are trying to receive compensation for lost income after a car accident.

Determining Liability

South Dakota is a tort state, meaning that whoever is at fault for the accident is liable for the resulting damage. Before you can determine how much compensation you might be entitled to, then, you need to determine who was at fault. This may be a simple or a complex process, depending on the circumstances of the accident, and one or more parties may be found to be at fault. You will be entitled to recover as long as it is determined that you were not more than slightly at fault for the accident. If you are found to be at fault, but not more than slightly at fault, the amount of damages you can recover will be reduced according to the percentage of fault that is assigned to you.

Can I receive compensation for lost wages if I can’t work after the accident?

Wages lost while you are recovering from injuries caused by a car accident are considered special damages, which is one type of damages that will be discussed while you and the at-fault party’s insurance company are working to reach a settlement. Special damages, which also includes vehicle damage and medical costs, are based on actual costs incurred, and their value is determined by relevant documentation such as bills, receipts, and pay stubs.

You may also be able to pursue general damages for lost earnings in the form of future lost earnings or lost earning capacity. Unlike special damages, general damages cannot be easily quantified, and the amount that you receive will be dependent on your ability to demonstrate that you are no longer able to earn what you would have been able to earn had you not been injured.

Depending on the extent of your injuries, and how long you will be unable to work, you may want to consider taking some or all of the following steps after your car accident:

1. Talk to your Employer
If you are required to take any time off work following a car accident, it is critical  that you inform your employer as soon as possible. You will also need to determine how much sick leave or vacation leave you have available to take.  While it may seem unfair, especially when you are struggling with a medical problem caused by someone else’s negligence, your employer is not required to hold your job indefinitely if you are unable to work.  However, there may be options available to you, such as leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, that can allow you to keep your job while you are still recovering.

2. Pursue Compensation for a Lost Job if Necessary
Your injury may leave you incapacitated for so long that your employer decides to terminate you. Even worse, your injuries may leave you unable to perform the job that you once did. In either case, you may attempt to seek compensation for the lost job from the party responsible for your accident.

When seeking damages for a lost job, you will need medical documentation, proof of your income, and documentation from your employer that shows that your termination or inability to go to work was tied to your injuries.

If you are currently unsure what effect your injuries will have on your current job or your future ability to work, think carefully before agreeing to any settlement with an insurance company. If you settle based on current circumstances, but later realize that you cannot work, you cannot go back to the insurance company and request additional compensation. Any settlement with the insurance company is almost certainly final.

3. Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits
If you will never be able to go back to work after your accident, you may consider applying for Social Security disability benefits in addition to asking for damages from the at-fault party.  There are a number of steps involved in applying for disability benefits, and the Social Security Administration will review your medical condition; your “residual work capacity,” or your ability to perform any type of work; your age; your level of education; and other relevant factors before determining your eligibility.

4. Short Term and Long Term Disability Insurance
Many employers, especially larger employers, offer short and long term disability insurance coverage as part of the ‘benefits’ package.  Short term disability insurance covers a portion (usually 60%) of your lost wages if you’re unable to work, usually for up to 90 days. Long term disability also covers a portion (usually 60%) of your lost wages, but usually only after the first 90 days.  If you have short term disability insurance, long term disability insurance, or both and you’re injured in a car accident and unable to work, contact your employer immediately and make a claim for disability. Short and long term disability insurance have specific requirements and deadlines that you must follow to qualify for benefits.  It is important to note that out of any settlement that you receive from the at fault party, you will likely have to repay some or all of the amount of short term and long term disability benefits you received.

Talk to an Experienced Attorney

The more your ability to work is affected by a car accident, the more important it is that you speak to a South Dakota car accident lawyer who can make sure you reach a settlement that fairly reflects the effect of the accident on your life.

The experienced team at Turbak Law Office is here to assist you. Book a free consultation online or call 866-231-0914, and we will guide you through your options and legal rights so you obtain the best outcome possible.