- The plaintiff’s age. The younger a plaintiff was at the time of an injury, the longer into the future a serious injury must be projected.
- The plaintiff’s work history. Any projection of future earnings must be based in part on past performance.
- The injury’s prognosis. If a plaintiff is expected to make a full or partial recovery, based on a physician’s diagnosis, that will be an important consideration in determining how much the defendant should be expected to pay.
- Other compensation the plaintiff will receive. Typically, a plaintiff’s compensation from a defendant will be offset by other forms of compensation, like disability insurance. Such insurance rarely covers the entire scope of a plaintiff’s losses, so a plaintiff can seek to “top up” from the defendant.
- Statistical averages. Every plaintiff is unique, but when an injury derails a career it is often helpful to reference the average career arc of other people in similar lines of work. For example, someone who is injured early in a career should be granted recovery for a reasonably foreseeable progression of promotions, job changes, and other things that could be expected to impact earnings potential over time if an injury hadn’t intervened.
- Discounts for projected setbacks. In addition to using projected progress, an accountant also needs to allow for the possibility of negative events that could impact a plaintiff’s career over time. Things like the likelihood of future illness and even projections of changes to a plaintiff’s industry could be included as factors.
A serious injury can have devastating consequences for a person’s work life. Someone who can’t continue a promising career because of a serious injury is often forced to start again, either to develop new skills or perhaps to quit work altogether. In the course of developing the claims that go into a personal injury lawsuit, and in the course of negotiating a settlement, the plaintiff needs to have a good basis for calculating the value of the injury’s impacts on the plaintiff’s work and career. Fairness dictates that plaintiffs must have a reliable basis for the damages they claim in a lawsuit. Among other things, a plaintiff must support a claim of damages with evidence, which may include financial records and other historical information, as well as expert testimony from an accountant who specializes in helping litigants calculate damages. Accountants will take into consideration a number of factors to arrive at a reasonable estimate of a plaintiff’s lost earning potential. These include: