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Lost Wages Claim From Car Accident: What You Need To Know

April 16, 2020 by Steven M. Gursten

Lost Wages Claim After Car Accident

A lost wages claim from a car accident in Michigan provides an essential, financial lifeline for crash victims whose injuries prevent them from returning to work. No-Fault auto insurance pays 85% of a person’s wages, tax-free, for up to three years from the date of the accident – regardless of fault.

For crash victims and their families who are already worried about recovering from injuries, getting necessary medical care and continuing to pay bills, this No-Fault benefit is one of the most important legal rights that people have under our state’s unique auto No Fault law.

What are lost wages from a car accident?

Under the Michigan No-Fault Law, lost wages from a car accident provide reimbursement to crash victims for 85% of the wages and income they would have earned during the first three years after the accident had their accident-related injuries not disabled them from returning to work. (MCL 500.3107(1)(b))

How to claim lost wages from a car accident

To make a lost wages claim from a car accident, an injured person must: First, file an application for No-Fault benefits with the auto insurance company; provide proof of income lost from not returning to work; provide a work disability certificate from the doctor; and provide wage verification from his or her employer.

Any or all of the following documents can be used to provide “reasonable proof” of a victim’s income for purposes of claiming these No-Fault benefits:

  • A “Michigan Motor Vehicle No-Fault Insurance Law Wage, Salary and Benefits Verification” form completed by the victim’s employer.
  • A copy of the victim’s pay stubs for the two months prior to the auto accident.
  • A copy of the victim’s most recent W2, i.e., the Internal Revenue Service’s “Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement.”

To document that a doctor has deemed a crash victim disabled from returning to work, victims can use our “Work Disability Certificate” form.

The No-Fault law in Michigan merely requires “reasonable proof” be provided so a lost wages claim from a car accident can be paid in a prompt and expeditious manner. (MCL 500.3142(2))

Are these No-Fault benefits available if someone was temporarily unemployed?

Yes. For a Michigan auto accident victim who was “temporarily unemployed” — or even who was working reduced hours — at the time of a crash, his or her lost wages claim from a car accident “shall be based on earned income for the last month employed full time preceding the accident.” (MCL 500.3107a)

That means people who can show they are actively looking for employment when they are injured in a crash can still recover wage loss from their No-Fault insurance companies.

Lost wages claim from a car accident with injury

To make a No-Fault lost wages claim from a car accident a person must have suffered an injury, i.e., an “accidental bodily injury,” resulting from a crash. (MCL 500.3105(1)) Additionally, the injury must be the reason that the car accident victim is unable to return to work.

Lost wages claim from a car accident without injury

You cannot make a No-Fault lost wages claim from a car accident if you have not suffered an injury in a crash that prevents you from working. Michigan No-Fault benefits, including reimbursement for wage loss, are payable only if a person has suffered an “accidental bodily injury” from a crash.

Calculating A Lost Wages Claim

Under Michigan’s auto No-Fault insurance law, your lost wages claim from a car accident will be 85% of the monthly income you would’ve earned if your injuries hadn’t disabled you from working. However, your payment is subject to a monthly maximum. The 15% reduction is because lost wages are not taxable income. 

How much can a person receive in a claim?

If a person suffers injuries that prevent him or her from returning to work, then a No-Fault lost wages claim from a car accident will pay up to 85% of the “income from work” the “injured person” would have earned “if he or she had not been injured.” (MCL 500.3107(1)(b))

However, these benefits are capped at a monthly “maximum” amount (see below) that’s “adjusted annually to reflect changes in the cost of living,” but a “change in the maximum shall apply only to benefits arising out of accidents occurring subsequent to the date of change in the maximum.” (MCL 500.3107(1)(b))

What is the Michigan No-Fault wage loss maximum?

The maximum monthly wage loss amount is $5,718 for the period from October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020.

Can I get lost wages claim from a car accident beyond the limits in the No-Fault law?

To obtain a lost wages claim from a car accident that exceeds the monthly maximum amount or the 3-year limit – and/or future wage loss and future economic loss – a victim will need to file a third-party tort lawsuit against the at-fault driver for “excess” and/or “future” wage loss. (MCL 500.3135(3)(c)). A lawyer can then sue on your behalf for all future economic loss not paid by No-Fault insurance, including wage loss in excess of the statutory monthly maximum, in a tort (or injury) lawsuit against the negligent, at-fault driver who caused the crash.

Who pays for these No-Fault benefits after a crash?

No-Fault lost wages claims from a car accident are paid by a person’s auto insurance company (or the auto insurance company that is determined to be liable under the No-Fault “priority” rules). (MCL 500.3105(1))

Can I claim the No-Fault benefits if I caused the crash?

Yes. Wage loss claims are paid “without regard to fault,” i.e., even if the injured person who is seeking these No-Fault benefits was at-fault in causing the crash. (MCL 500.3105(2))

However, this means you will be limited to only recovering these benefits from your own No-Fault insurance company. You cannot sue yourself in tort for your injuries and pain and suffering and future and excess economic loss if you caused the crash.

How long can a crash victim receive these No-Fault benefits?

A wage loss claim will be paid “during the first 3 years after the date of the accident.” (MCL 500.3107(1)(b))

When will I receive a check for my claim?

The auto insurance company is supposed to pay you “within 30 days” of receiving “reasonable proof” of your “loss of income from work an injured person would have performed during the first 3 years after the date of the accident if he or she had not been injured.” (MCL 500.3142(2); 500.3107(1)(b))

If the auto insurance company has received “reasonable proof” of your lost wages claim from a car accident and fails to pay within 30 days, then your benefits are “overdue.”

Our auto accident attorneys strongly recommend calling your insurance adjuster after each submittal to confirm receipt and to inquire about whether any additional documentation is needed from you. Once you receive confirmation that your wage and salary verification form and whatever additional information has been received by your claims adjuster, and that your claims adjuster has told you that the information is sufficient and there is no additional information to constitute reasonable proof, document that as well in a separate letter or email so that the 30 days begins to run.

You do not need to hire a lawyer to receive wage loss benefits or other No-Fault benefits (and you should run from any lawyer who tells you that you do). That said, we always recommend talking to an experienced auto No-Fault lawyer to make sure you are receiving everything you should be and you are protecting your legal rights. The initial phone call and consultation is always free of charge.

I wrote “supposed to pay” above for a reason. From experience, unfortunately, the 30-day rule is something that far too many claims adjusters ignore. Sadly, for too many innocent and injured people waiting for wage loss after a car accident, you are just one more file. A claims adjuster can easily have two or three hundred claims open at a time. In a state like Michigan that does not have insurance bad faith laws or punitive damages to stop adjusters from ignoring claims, it is often very hard to get a claims adjuster to make prompt payments. That leaves people with the unenviable choice of continuing to be ignored or hiring a lawyer to sue for incurred and outstanding No-Fault benefits and wage loss. Even when a person has hired a lawyer and started a lawsuit for outstanding benefits, you will likely only recover penalty interest and attorney fees by taking the case to judgment or verdict, so there is often no real deterrent to force adjusters to pay outstanding claims promptly.

Can I claim lost wages on my taxes?

No you can’t claim lost wages from a car accident on your taxes in Michigan. These No-Fault benefits that victims receive from their auto insurance company are not taxable income” under Michigan law. Because they are not taxable, benefits are reduced 15%, leaving the victim a payment equal to 85% of their wages. (MCL 500.3107(1)(b))

However, if as part of a third-party tort lawsuit a crash victim seeks “excess” wage loss benefits beyond the monthly and/or 3-year limits – or future wage loss – then any such recovery will be treated as income that will be taxed. Importantly, taxes should include social security and Medicare taxes.

Need help? Call Michigan Auto Law first

If you have been injured in a crash and you need help with your No-Fault lost wages claim from a car accident, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with our experienced attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced auto accident attorney by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our website.

Lost Wages Claim From Car Accident: What You Need To Know

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