Future income loss damages for international student

As our client was crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing, she was hit by an SUV. She suffered injuries to her knee, elbow and neck.  At the time, she was an international student.  The insurance company wanted to refuse to pay compensation for any income loss, because our client was studying at the time of the incident.  This case demonstrates that you can get compensation for income loss even if you don’t have any income at the time of the incident.


Our client’s physical injuries

At the time of the incident, our client was in her late 20s. Despite the passage of weeks and then months, she continued to experience paid in her knee and neck and she also suffered from restricted range of motion in these areas. Our client did not need surgery, but she required ongoing physiotherapy sessions. With physio, her symptoms improved but did not completely resolve.


The insurance company offered a very low settlement and they said they would not pay for any income loss, because our client was not working at the time.


Income loss vs loss of earning capacity

If you are injured, it’s important to understand that just because you haven’t lost any income yet doesn’t mean that you won’t lose income in the future. A person in their 20s who suffers physical injuries may no longer be suitable for certain occupations, particularly if it involves manual labour. If you can prove that the injuries are such that either now or sometime in the future you would struggle to undertake physical work, there is a good chance that you are entitled to at least some compensation for your reduced earning capacity.


In this case we engaged an orthopaedic surgeon to report on our client’s injuries, diagnosis and likely future condition. Our expert (who is very highly regarded in the medical profession) considered that as a result of the incident, our client was better suited for sedentary work (i.e. light work). In the case of international students, not being capable of working in a physically demanding role can be a huge problem because, with a student visa, it is much easier to get manual work rather than office work.


Using this expert report we convinced the insurance company that our client’s earning capacity got reduced in the incident. Had she not been hit by a car, she could have secured work in the hospitality industry.


The next piece of the puzzle was to estimate the amount (or quantum) of the income loss. This can be tricky, particularly with visa holders. In our client’s case, we showed that due to changes to student visa conditions, had she not been injured, she would have been permitted to work unlimited hours.  From there, using the relevant awards, we calculated our client’s loss up to the date of the settlement meeting, and we have also claimed an additional amount to take account for losses in the future (future economic loss). (By the way, click here if you want to find out more about personal injury claims by visa holders.)


Of course, calculating future economic loss is difficult as there are many imponderables,  but in light of the evidence which we obtained as we developed our client’s claim, the insurance company was eventually forced to accept our arguments and arrive at a reasonable and fair settlement.