When a car accident happens, the resulting damage can extend far beyond busted tail-lights and broken bones, and often includes long-term effects like loss of future earning capacity. In Lagalante v. State Farm, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida explains that a person seeking the latter form of damages bears the burden of proving that his or her ability to earn money has been weakened because of the crash.
Mr. Lagalante was injured in a car accident in Florida and later sued his insurance company for benefits from a uninsured/underinsured motorist policy. Following trial, a jury ruled in favor of Lagalante, awarding him nearly $250,000 in damages. The award included more than $50,000 for medical expenses, more than $8,000 in past lost earnings and $24,000 for lost earning capacity. The jury also awarded Lagalante $165,000 for pain and suffering, disability, and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.
State Farm then moved for a directed verdict on the future earnings capacity issue, arguing that Lagalante failed to establish that he was entitled to the award. Specifically, the company argued that he did not show that he was fired from his job because of the accident, or that any permanent injury suffered as a result of the crash kept him from performing his job duties.
The District Court agreed. “Florida law does not recognize a claim for future loss of earnings but does recognize a claim for damages for loss of earning capacity,” the court explained, citing the state’s Second District Court of Appeals’ 2007 decision in Truelove v. Blount. “Thus, the purpose of a jury’s award of damages for loss of any future earning capacity is to compensate a plaintiff for loss of capacity to earn income as opposed to actual loss of future earnings.”
Here, according to the court, the only evidence that Lagalante presented on the issue was the difference between the $100,000 salary he made in his job at the time of the accident and the $68,000 he made in a new job after the crash. Although he was fired shortly after returning from related medical leave, Lagalante did not point to specific evidence showing that he was fired because of the accident. He did claim, however, that he was not able to work at the same production level because of injuries sustained in the accident.
“Plaintiff’s argument is based on nothing more than inferences,” the court concluded. Specifically, Lagalante argued that it was State Farm’s burden to explain why he was fired and that its failure to do so was proof that the termination must have been related to the accident. Indeed, Lagalante himself testified at trial that he was unsure as to why he was actually fired.
As a result, the court granted State Farm’s motion for directed verdict.
As this case shows, a person suing for damages related to a car accident is tasked with presenting sufficient evidence to show the full extent of the injuries sustained in the crash, including those related to future earnings capacity. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Florida, contact the South Florida personal injury lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Coral Springs, Hialeah and Pompano Beach. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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