3903C. Past and Future Lost Earnings

Forensic Economists

The interest of forensic economists is primarily limited to the calculations of compensatory damages and prejudgment interest. Economic testimony may also be helpful in the determination of punitive damages, where the economist may interpret financial data relating to the defendant’s financial condition. The economist (or any other expert) is not allowed to testify regarding non-economic damages.

Compensatory damages

Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the injured person’s actual loss as a result of the injuries. Compensatory damages include:

  • The reasonable value of necessary medical expenses incurred from the time of injury to the time of trial (past expenses) and medical expenses which are reasonably certain to be incurred in the future
  • Damages for loss of earnings or impairment of earnings capacity from the time of injury to the time of trial and for the loss or impairment of future earnings capacity. See CACI 3903D
  • Damages for all other losses or expenses that can be proven.

Past and future loss of earnings

An injured person is entitled to recover the past and future loss of earnings resulting from an injury caused by the defendant. To recover past lost earnings, plaintiff must prove the amount of income/earnings/salary/wages lost to date. To recover future lost earnings, plaintiff must prove the amount of income/earnings/salary/wages that will reasonably certain be lost in the future as the result of the injury.

Rodriguez v. McDonnell Douglas Corp

States: We know of no rule of law that requires that a plaintiff establish the amount of his actual earnings at the time of the injury in order to obtain recovery for loss of wages although, obviously, the amount of such earnings would be helpful to the jury in particular situations

Bellman v. San Francisco High School Dist.

“To entitle a plaintiff to recover present damages for apprehended future consequences, there must be evidence to show such a degree of probability of their occurring as amounts to a reasonable certainty that they will result from the original injury.”

Fein v. Permanente Medical Group

“Under the prevailing American rule, a tort victim suing for damages for permanent injuries is permitted to base his recovery “on his prospective earnings for the balance of his life expectancy at the time of his injury undiminished by any shortening of that expectancy as a result of the injury.”


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