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How do you calculate loss of enjoyment of life in a personal injury case?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

lady laying in hospital bed

A judge or jury will consider a host of different factors to help calculate the appropriate damage amount for the loss of enjoyment of life. Some of these are:

  • the age of the injured person,
  • the injured party's educational background and work history,
  • the severity of the injuries,
  • the future consequences of the injury, and
  • the nature of the activity that has been lost.

“Loss of enjoyment of life” is a legal term used in some personal injury cases. It refers to when:

  1. a person suffers a physical or mental injury, and
  2. that injury affects the person's ability to perform a given activity that gave the person enjoyment before the injury.

Some of these activities may include performing certain:

  • hobbies,
  • recreational activities,
  • volunteer opportunities, and
  • social activities.

Note that these damages are awarded in California. But they are included in compensation for pain and suffering, rather than stand as a separate damage award.

Loss of enjoyment of life is an example of a “compensatory damage” that a plaintiff may be awarded in a personal injury case. In some of these cases, a plaintiff can also be awarded punitive damages.

What is “loss of enjoyment of life?”

Loss of enjoyment of life” is a legal term used in some personal injury cases. It refers to when:

  1. a person suffers a physical or mental injury, and
  2. that injury affects the person's ability to perform a given activity that gave the person enjoyment before the injury.

Examples of loss of enjoyment of life include the loss of:

  • certain hobbies or recreational activities,
  • family bonding activities,
  • social encounters with friends,
  • travel,
  • a career, and
  • volunteer opportunities.

Most often, the loss of enjoyment of life is caused by catastrophic injuries, like:

  • spinal cord injuries,
  • paralysis,
  • injuries causing blindness or deafness, and
  • severe or disfiguring burns.

How are calculations made regarding loss of enjoyment of life?

A judge or jury will consider a wide range of factors in trying to calculate the appropriate compensation for loss of enjoyment of life damages. Some of these include:

  • the age of the injured person,
  • the injured party's appearance
  • the injured party's educational background and work history,
  • the geographic location where the injured person lives,
  • the severity of the injuries,
  • the future consequences of the injury, and
  • the nature of the activity that has been lost.

In addition, the party trying to receive these damages will present both experts and economists (as witnesses) to help judges and juries calculate loss of enjoyment of life. These parties may present certain methods to help place a monetary value on a human life. As one example, experts and economists may try to find this value by:

  1. looking at how much companies spend on safety devices that reduce the risk of death (e.g., seat belts and smoke alarms), and then
  2. multiply this figure by the percentage of loss of enjoyment a person has experienced due to the injury in question.

Are damages for loss of enjoyment of life awarded in California?

These damages are awarded in California. But they are included in any compensation for pain and suffering, rather than stand as a separate damage award. Nevertheless, the damages are still calculated in a manner described above.

What other damages may be a plaintiff recover in a personal injury case?

There are two types of damages that a plaintiff may try to recover in a personal injury case. These are:

  1. compensatory damages, and
  2. punitive damages.

Compensatory damages for an accident or injury fall into two basic categories:

  • "Economic" (pecuniary) damages, such as medical bills, property damage and lost wages, and
  • "Non-economic" damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.

There are typically no caps on compensatory damages in a personal injury case. The jury (or, in a bench trial, the judge) can award any fair and reasonable sum.

Unlike "compensatory damages," punitive damages are based not on the plaintiff's losses, but on the reprehensibility of the defendant's conduct and the defendant's ability to pay. These damages are not awarded in every case.

If they are awarded, though, they are granted to punish a defendant who has acted with:

  • malice,
  • oppression, or
  • fraud.

This is typically in cases of intentional harm or extreme recklessness.

When granted, punitive damages are in addition to amounts awarded as compensatory damages.

Note that punitive damage awards can reach well into the several million-dollar mark. For this reason, many states have placed caps on the amount of punitive damages that a plaintiff may receive.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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