How Are Lost Future Earnings Calculated in New York?

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If your injuries are catastrophic enough to keep you from working in the future, or significantly diminish your ability to work in the future, then you might have a loss of earnings or diminished earning capacity claim.

How are those claims calculated? After all, no one can know for sure how much money you would have earned had the accident never taken place, how long you would have continued working, or even what career you would have been able to pursue.

When we make a case for a loss of future earnings claim, we rely on several types of evidence.


Evidence can include prior earnings, your prior rate of advancement, and your company policies on raises, promotions, or other benefits. If you were training for a better career, we can also include those school records. We might pull your employee evaluations as well. 

If you are self-employed, we might use tax returns, invoices, and other data to help determine what your actual losses look like. 

Your age and general life expectancy will be factored in as well, as will the number of years before your retirement and the state of your health prior to the injury. We also look at the length of time that you’re expected to be unable to earn income

It is absolutely imperative for you to be able to provide material proof of your earnings. If you are unemployed, you’d need to be able to provide evidence as to your past employment, as well as what sorts of jobs you’d been applying for prior to the accident. 


We can gather testimony from several sources. 

One thing we tend to do is hire an expert economist who can project the amount you could have made based on salary trends in your line of work or field of study. 

We also get testimony from your employer as to what kind of employee you were. If you were a particularly hard worker or dedicated employee then there’s a better chance we’ll be able to get more money on your behalf.

Your doctor can also testify as to the state of your health prior to being injured, as well as to what limitations your doctor would expect you to have after the injury. 

Your Duty to Mitigate

You have a duty to mitigate damages. It is a good idea to seek vocational rehabilitation or training for a job that you can do, even if you make a lot less. You should then start looking for work.

We can then show that you took steps to mitigate the loss but you should still receive a diminished earnings capacity award to make up the difference between what you would have earned and what you’re able to earn now. 

It is also important for you to undergo all recommended surgeries and medical treatments, or to have a strong reason for avoiding said surgery. In the 1990 case Piehnik v. Graff, the plaintiff refused a surgery that might have alleviated chronic pain, and lost future loss of earnings.  

The court initially denied him loss of future earnings compensation. On appeal, the court ruled that he had provided sufficient evidence that the surgery could create complications with little chance of success or full restoration of his ability to work. The court ordered a new trial to investigate the matter of how much compensation the plaintiff should be awarded. 

Get Expert Help Today

The issue of how much compensation you’re entitled to in order to cover the loss of your career is a complex one. Many factors can go into what might be included in a settlement or jury award. 

To make sure you maximize this award, you’ll need expert legal help. If you’ve been incapacitated by your accident, reach out to RLF today.

See also:

4 Actions to Avoid During an NYC Personal Injury Lawsuit

What is New York’s Serious Injury Threshold for Personal Injury Cases? 

How Does the Burden of Proof Work in an NYC Personal Injury Case? 



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