Future Lost Earnings vs. Lost Earning Capacity

What is the difference is between Future Lost Earnings and Lost Earning Capacity? Clarifying these terms can have a big impact when analyzing a case and determining accurate calculations.

According to the California Civil Jury Instructions: “To recover damages for future lost earnings, plaintiff must prove the amount of income/ earnings/ salary/ wages he/she will be reasonably certain to lose in the future as a result of the injury.”

On the other hand, lost earning capacity is defined as “the loss of ability to earn money. To recover damages, plaintiff must prove the reasonable value of that loss…it is not necessary that he/she have a work history.” 

The important distinction is that the plaintiff’s earning history may not be an accurate basis for what he/she is capable of earning in the future. This is especially true when they have not yet established a career, or have had variable earnings in the past. A vocational expert can provide valuable insight and tangible figures on potential earnings, which can make a significant difference in a case.