Can College Students Claim Loss of Potential Earnings in A Personal Injury Case?

My daughter is 21 years old and is a college student.  She is has no declared major but she is doing well in school.  She was in a bad car wreck and had severe injuries to her leg.  Can she include a claim for loss of future earnings as part of her personal injury claim? 

Yes, but she will have to be able to prove how the injuries affected her ability to earn money in the future.  This will require evidence of what she was wanted and able to do before the wreck and evidence of how the wreck limited those opportunities.  Those lost opportunities then need to be converted to dollars.

At our office, in appropriate cases, we utilize the service of a vocational expert to help us make the assessment of how an injury affects future work opportunities.  We then use an economist to demonstrate the amount of economic loss as a result.

Let me hasten to add, however, that this can be a very complicated issue.  It requires analysis of not only what the the victim wanted to do but also what she was able to do.  For example, if your daughter’s leg injuries are very severe she may well not be able to be a professional golfer.  However, if your daughter had never played golf or never played golf competitively before the wreck, it would be very, very hard to show that the wreck that caused her injury caused the loss of the ability to make a living as a professional golfer.  

The lack of a declared major does not make the determination of damages impossible.   Her good grade history is an important factor, as will be the nature of her course work and her previously expressed desires as to the type of career or careers she was seeking.  

So, situations such as this require an analysis of not only what was possible but also what was and is probable.  And, it requires converting the gathered data into dollars.  It is fair to say that this can be a challenge with younger clients (who lack an earnings history in a given field) but it is not impossible.  


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