If you were injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, chances are you’ve had to take time off from work even if your injuries weren’t that severe. If your company provides the benefit of paid time off (PTO)—e.g., sick days, vacation days, and personal days—you might have had to use some or all of this PTO. Perhaps you didn’t even use all of it on your hospital stay or time recovering at home; you may have used PTO for other things related to your accident, like arranging a rental car, dealing with insurance companies, and meeting with your attorney. You’re entitled to claim lost wages in your personal injury claim—but are you allowed to recover your PTO even though you were paid for that time?
The answer is yes. Here’s how and why.
“Lost Wages” Includes Other Forms of Compensation
When you’re injured and can’t go to work, you lose out on both income and benefits you could be earning if it weren’t for your injuries. Your lost wages include the benefits that would have been available to you had you not been injured—which includes your paid time off. A personal injury claim is designed to help you recover all forms of loss incurred by your accident, including the loss of benefits at work. Even though you may have been paid for some of your time off work, it’s still considered a loss because you wouldn’t have used that PTO if not for the accident.
Winning your personal injury claim won’t get those benefits back—in other words, your company isn’t going to put those paid days back into your “PTO bank” so you can use them again. (That’s another reason why it’s a loss.) However, your settlement can include reimbursement for the dollar value of the PTO you used related to your accident—and you’re well within your legal rights to include it in your claim.
How Paid Time Off Is Valued
How do you calculate the value of your PTO when including it in your claim? In many cases, the answer is simple: Whatever amount you’re paid for a day’s work, that’s the value for every day of PTO you had to take. So if you’re paid $150 a day, and you had to take five paid sick days and 14 vacation days, you can add $150 x 19 days, or $2850, to your claim.
However, in many cases, your daily wage isn’t the only consideration when figuring out the actual amount of loss incurred by taking your PTO. For example, if you receive commissions or bonuses on sales, you might not have had the opportunity to make those commissions and bonuses because you were not at work. Your PTO likely only covered your “base pay” in those instances, so your attorney will want to include in your claim an estimate of the additional amount you would have received in commissions or bonuses had you not been forced to take your paid leave.
Why You Need an Attorney
Since the recovery of lost wages is an area that’s not always clear-cut, insurance companies are likely to try to push back on claims that include PTO. They may argue, for example, that you were paid for that time or that you didn’t really need to take those personal days. It’s best to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you on how to include PTO in your claim for lost wages. A good attorney will be able to overcome the objections involved and make sure you receive the full value for those lost benefits in addition to other lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, etc.
Paid time off can temporarily “soften the blow” to your finances, but it won’t stave off financial difficulty forever. The sooner you get an attorney involved after your injury accident, the sooner your attorney can get to work on your claim so you can recover your losses as quickly as possible. The Max Meyers Law Firm helps injury accident victims in Washington State get the settlements they need and deserve to get their lives back on track. Contact our offices to schedule a free consultation or call us at 425-399-7000.