All unexpected injuries are painful and traumatic, and some require days, weeks, and even months of medical treatment, but when an injury is catastrophic and life-altering, the damages may go far beyond the economic damages and even the expected amount of pain and suffering. When an accident causes significant disability and other long-term negative effects, the injury victim may make a claim of “Loss of Enjoyment of Life” (LEL) damages. How do you prove loss of enjoyment of life after an injury, and how does compensation work for this type of claim?
What is Loss of Enjoyment of Life in a Personal Injury Claim?
When an injury victim claims loss of enjoyment of life in a personal injury case, they must be able to demonstrate the long-term negative impact of their injury on their life. This typically involves showing that they are no longer able to engage in or enjoy their previous activities. Because of the intangible nature of this non-economic damage, it can be more difficult to prove than a calculated list of medical expenses and lost wages.
Loss of enjoyment of life usually requires showing some loss of basic function due to an injury caused by another party’s negligence. This includes catastrophic injuries such as any of the following:
- Partial or total paralysis
- Loss of hearing or vision
- Loss of a limb
- Brain injuries
- Severe scarring/disfigurement
- Injuries with chronic severe pain
- Loss of sexual function (loss of consortium)
Showing how the injury impacts the victim’s ability to perform routine daily tasks, or how it prevents them from returning to a previous career, hobbies, or sports activities can be important factors in proving loss of enjoyment of life. An injury victim’s inability to engage with their children in the way that they did prior to the injury is also an important consideration for LEL claims.
How to Prove Loss of Enjoyment of Life Claims
In personal injury claims, the burden of proof is on the injury victim (plaintiff) in the case. First, their attorney must investigate the circumstances of the injury to demonstrate the at-fault party’s liability by showing that they had a duty of reasonable care to prevent injuries to others, that they breached this duty by acting negligently, recklessly, or with purposeful wrongdoing, that their breach of duty directly caused the injury, and that the injury victim suffered significant damages. Then, the personal injury attorney must carefully calculate economic damages like medical expenses and lost income. Intangible damages like pain and suffering are more challenging to prove, but typically an attorney uses a mathematical formula based on the victim’s medical expenses. However, proving loss of enjoyment of life may require evidence such as the following:
- Testimony by medical experts
- Testimony from family and friends about the impact of the injury on the victim’s life
- A daily journal by the injury victim chronicling their pain, medical treatments, and the impacts of the injury on their daily routines
- Photographic evidence
Once the evidence clearly demonstrates the differences in the victim’s life after the injury compared to before the injury, the attorney must determine a monetary amount of compensation to claim for the intangible damages. The defendant in the case is likely to dispute the amount that a victim claims, so it’s important to have ample evidence before the attorney engages in negotiations with an insurance company for damages or litigates the matter in court.