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Court Sets Forth Proof Required For College Student's No-Fault Wage Loss Claim

Posted on Aug 21, 2012

In Soriano v. Abbas, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals decided May 19, 2011, (Docket No. 296517) the issue was whether an unemployed college student is eligible for work loss benefits if she does not provide specific evidence that she would have completed a four year degree and would have secured employment utilizing that degree but for the accident.

The case law requires an unemployed student to provide specific evidence of how much money she would have made in order to be eligible for work loss damages. That is, the evidence provided by a plaintiff must be specific enough to calculate loss based on actual earnings not future possibilities or expected earnings.

The No-Fault Act allows a seriously injured person to recover work loss damages in tort arising from the owner-ship, use or maintenance of a motor vehicle. See MCL 500.3135(3)(c); see also MCL 500.3107(1)(b). “Work loss” is defined as “income [which the injured party] would have received but for the accident.”

A claim for loss of earning capacity is not recoverable under the no-fault act. Lost earning capacity is what an injured party could have earned but for the accident, whereas work loss is what an injured party would have earned but for the accident.

The Court discussed the prior cases of Swartout and Gerardi. The Court’s held in those cases that an unemployed college student seeking work loss benefits must provide specific evidence of wages that would, rather than could, have been earned but for the injuries. She also presented evidence that, statistically, it is more likely than not that, but for the accident, she would have earned income over her lifetime at least in the average range for a female college graduate with an average life expectancy.

However, such general proofs were rejected by the Court in She also presented evidence that, statistically, it is more likely than not that, but for the accident, she would have earned income over her lifetime at least in the average range for a female college graduate with an average life expectancy. However, such general proofs were rejected by the Court in Gerardi and found not to support a claim for work loss benefits.

Based on the Court’s analyses and rationales in both Swartout and Gerardi, the Court held that the Plaintiff was required to present specific evidence that she would have completed her degree and evidence of the source of her employment and wage. Plaintiff failed to provide such evidence, and this, failed to establish a viable claim for work loss benefits. 

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