Everyone has an instinctive idea of what “quality of life” means, but who can value it? Courts measure it when they determine the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff deserves for a personal injury. Any injury, especially a catastrophic injury, can diminish your quality of life, and a defendant (or their insurance company) may be ordered to compensate you for it.
The main problem with awarding damages for lost quality of life is that you are essentially compensating the victim for the loss of something that is entirely intangible. The loss of the ability to play baseball with friends might represent a catastrophe for one person but a relief for another. No court can look into your mind and decide how much enjoyment you lost. It can only make an educated guess.
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What Kinds of Activities Contribute to Quality of Life?
Diminished quality of life, or “loss of enjoyment of life” as it is sometimes known, refers to the loss of the ability to enjoy activities that were once important to you.
Such activities might include:
- Recreational activities
- Volunteer activities
- Social activities
- Family bonding activities such as playing with your children or your dog
- Travel opportunities
- The ability to exercise, especially if you were physically active before your injury
Strains in your family relationships that arise from your injury or disability might also qualify as loss of quality of life.
Factors That Determine the Magnitude of a Loss of Quality of Life Award
Many factors might determine just how much money a court will award you for loss of quality of life, including:
- Your age. You lose a lot more by suffering a catastrophic injury at 18 than at 81 since you have more time during which you might have enjoyed your life.
- Your appearance. A fashion model will probably suffer more from facial disfigurement than an ordinary person would.
- Your educational background and work history. These factors commonly determine how important a given activity might be to you.
- Where you live, if you lose the ability to participate in outdoor activities.
- The severity of your injuries. Are you bedridden, or do you walk with a limp?
- Whether your injury is temporary, long-term, or permanent.
- The nature of the activities that you can no longer participate in.
Ultimately, there is no formula for determining the value of compensation for loss of enjoyment of life—it’s a judgment call based on different factors.
The Difference Between a Negotiated Settlement and a Courtroom Verdict
In settlement negotiations, you face a defendant (or, more likely, an insurance company) who is inherently hostile to your claim. After all, every dime you receive is a dime that comes out of the opposing party’s pocket. In court, however, the jury is not necessarily hostile to your claim. In fact, they might even be sympathetic to it.
Occasionally a defendant encounters a “runaway jury” that awards the victim far more than either side expected. This is a defendant’s worst nightmare. Indeed, fear of a runaway jury often drives settlement negotiations and prompts defendants to settle for more than they would otherwise be willing to offer.
Nevertheless, the opposing party will do their best to whittle down the value of your claim as much as possible, using the following tactics:
- Blaming you for failing to mitigate your damages. This objection might have some merit if you failed to wear a helmet in a motorcycle accident and suffered a brain injury or if you failed to follow your doctor’s recommendations.
- Blaming you for the accident.
- Offering you a quick but inadequate settlement check. Cashing the check could be interpreted as acceptance of the amount of the check as a full settlement of your claim.
- Claiming that some or all of your injuries predated the accident.
- Underestimating the value of your claim. This is easy to do if you don’t have a lawyer to argue your case, because “loss of enjoyment of life” is an inherently subjective concept.
- Misrepresenting the law in an attempt to get you to lower your settlement demand.
- Talking you into giving a recorded statement and then asking you trick questions.
Some of these tactics amount to bad faith insurance practices, for which you can sue the insurance company. Insurance companies will most likely try to pull one of these tricks if you don’t have an attorney to protect you.
A Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Fight For Loss of Quality of Life Damages
If you have suffered a serious personal injury, you might not even be sure whether you have a loss of quality of life claim. A personal injury lawyer can help you decide. If you do have such a claim, your attorney can help you determine how much your claim is worth. Your claim might be worth a lot more than you think it is.