Being in an accident can put a major strain on a person’s life, especially when you are unable to work. Fortunately, North Carolina allows for an individual to be reimbursed for their lost wages from a car accident caused by another driver through a bodily injury claim (when supported by the necessary evidence, of course!). One common misconception is that lost wages cannot be claimed if paid sick or vacation time has been used. In North Carolina, however, this is not always the case.
Being able to claim lost wages even when you have been paid through sick or vacation time is permitted by a rule of evidence commonly known as the collateral source rule. Essentially, this rule provides you with an avenue by which you can be reimbursed for lost wages regardless of whether or not you were paid through vacation or sick leave. In essence, the rule prevents an at-fault party’s insurance company from denying lost wages when they are paid from other sources (for example, sick and vacation pay).
The rule works in a way to protect an injured party’s interests from the at-fault party. For example, if you were unable to claim lost wages for taken sick or vacation leave, then you would be left worse off than before the accident. Think about it: but for the negligence of the at-fault driver, you would not have had to use your sick days or vacation time. Those days are earned by you and are there for you to use at a time of your choosing. Now, instead of taking your vacation time to go to the beach or on a yearly family vacation, you have to use all your time available to recover from an accident that was caused by the negligent acts of another.
Furthermore, I do think it is important that you understand that the collateral source rule is a rule of evidence and not a state law. Essentially, this means that it only applies when in court; however, insurance companies will likely consider the rule in negotiating a settlement, as failing to do so may result in more parties filing their bodily injury claims in court.
With all this being said, you still must support your missed time from work with the necessary evidence. Typically, this is done through doctor’s notes and letters from your employer. It is pivotal that whenever you miss work due to an accident that you have seen a doctor and received a written opinion stating how much time you should be out of work. Insurance companies typically will not accept lost wages if missed time is not supported by a licensed physician. For more information on lost wages, please visit our Claiming Lost Wages – Overview article.