BGBC: Calculating lost profits requires analysis

February 1, 2012
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

By Howard I Gross, Steven W. Reed and Casey L. Higgs

Computing the lost profits of a business as a result of a wrongful act is a complex task. And many times, the question to ask is: “But for” a wrongful act, what would the profits be? What would the value be?

Generally, lost profits are claimed as part of economic damages in litigation. A lost profits calculation, or economic damages analysis, is often performed to estimate the profits that were lost, or damages suffered, as a result of the wrongful act. In Robert L. Dunn’s 6th Edition of “Recovery of Damages for Lost Profits,” he writes that there are three requirements for damages recovery:

• The damages must be proximately caused by the wrongful conduct;

• The damages must be proven with reasonable certainty; and

• The damages must have been foreseeable at the time the contract was made (only for contract claims).

In calculating lost profits, net profits are recoverable. Net profits include the revenue the plaintiff would have earned “but for” the loss, reduced by the costs associated with generating the revenues. Gross profits are normally recoverable when net and gross profits are the same or if there is minimal or no additional costs necessary to realize the profits.

An important factor requiring identification is the damage period. Typically, the damage period begins on the date of the loss and ends when the company returns to the profitability or to the level of cash flow that it would have been at “but for” the loss.

There are several methods used to calculate profits that would have been attained “but for” the loss:

• Before-and-after method – This method projects operating results based off historical operating results as if there was no loss and then compares it to the actual results during the loss period to determine the damages.

• The Yardstick Approach – Under this method, the operating results from the loss period are compared to the operating results for the same period of a similar company for comparison purposes. The difference is used to determine the damages.

• Sales Project (But for) Method – Operating results are projected during the loss period absent the loss as if the loss did not occur. The projections are then compared to the actual results to determine the damages.

Which method is most appropriate depends on the circumstances of the issues at hand. Oftentimes, the calculation can use a combination of all three methods. The types and timeframe of financial data to be analyzed (e.g., actual, projections, etc.), the availability of competitor and industry information, among other factors, are all items that need to be considered when choosing the most appropriate method. Performing insufficient analysis of financial information, using an inappropriate growth rate to determine projections, and insufficiently considering other relevant factors can negatively impact the lost profits calculation.

Once a method of assessing damages is determined, the stream of lost profits needs to be discounted to their present values. Determining the appropriate discount rate is critical as a very small change in the discount rate can severely increase or decrease the amount of the lost profits calculated.

The process for calculating lost profits is based in sound and thorough analysis, but also requires the use of reasonable judgment and estimates. For these reasons, assessing damages can be a lengthy process. It is critical to be as accurate as possible when estimating cost revenues, calculating the costs associated with generating revenues and determining the appropriate discount rate. The calculated damages should be reasonable, based on reliable information using an appropriate methodology and performed by an experienced expert.•


Howard I Gross, CPA/ABV/CFF, CFP; Steven W. Reed, CPA/ABV; and Casey L. Higgs, CPA/CFF, CFE, CVA are with BGBC Partners, LLP – Litigation, Forensic and Business Valuation. Contact BGBC at 317-633-4700 or visit The opinions expressed are those of the author.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise