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How a Non-Severe Disability Impacts a Person's Future Earning Capacity - Based on The U.S. Census

The Law Offices of Jonathan M. Brand May 23, 2018

About 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population — had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe, according to a comprehensive report on this population released in July 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the report individuals without disabilities were roughly three times more likely to maintain employment than those with disabilities between 2008 and 2010. With 6 % or 9.4 million people that are disabled in the workforce, this disparity makes quite a difference. Individuals with disabilities, earn less than their able-bodied counterparts, making it necessary to calculate this deficit in an injury settlement.

People with disabilities often encounter barriers to their entry or re-entry into the workforce and lack of accommodations on the job; many have difficulty obtaining appropriate training, education and job skills. These, in turn, contribute to low-income levels, low labor force participation rates, and high levels of reliance on public benefits. Disabilities can be permanent or temporary, severe or non-severe. A severe or total disability means that you are completely disabled because of your injury or illness and can no longer work in the capacity for which you were trained. For workers’ compensation claims, a non-severe disability is more common. This type of disability makes up over 50% of these claims. This type of disability means that the worker is still able to function in his or her chosen work, but not at full capacity.

In terms of collecting disability payments or damage awards, there can be significant differences between a severe and non-severe disability. For a non-severe disability, the legal remedies usually include compensation for lost wages due to the injury. If a person has been made permanently unable to work due to the injury, then the lost wages that he or she would have made over the course of a lifetime may be required to be paid by the defendant.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that an individual with a non-severe injury who has returned to work, perhaps at the same or even greater compensation, has suffered no lifetime loss of earning capacity. This is a misperception. Census data reflects that it is necessary to also look at “lifetime compensation” for a non-severe disability which includes both earnings and work life expectancy as elements. Compensation should reflect the reduction in his or her future ability to earn, even if it hasn't taken away that ability entirely.

If you're injured or caused financial harm by the negligence of another party, you have the legal right to be "made whole". Damages are the legal means of quantifying your losses. The type and extent of your injuries are one of the most important factors when it comes to determining the value of an injury case. A settlement in a non-severe injury case is compensation for the injured worker’s diminished earning capacity over the course of his life. He can still work, but he may not be able to do the same job he did prior to his injury. He may have to accept a job paying less money. Reduced earnings and reduced employment rates are a double whammy in calculating a loss of future earning capacity for a person with a non-severe injury. Having an injury attorney representing you can help ensure that your disability level is accurately calculated to maximize the compensation you may receive.