In any injury-related insurance claim or lawsuit, the person filing the claim typically asks for fair compensation for a variety of losses stemming from the underlying accident and resulting injuries. That includes the obvious kinds of "damages" like medical bills and lost income, and also effects that are harder to quantify (but just as significant) like "loss of enjoyment." In this article, we'll explain what "loss of enjoyment" damages are, how they're established, and more.
"Loss of Enjoyment" Defined
The legal term "loss of enjoyment" (which is usually shorthand for "loss of enjoyment of life") defines a component of "pain and suffering" damages in a personal injury case. Not all states consider loss of enjoyment of life to be a distinct category of a plaintiff's compensable losses. In some states, plaintiffs are entitled to receive a separate award of damages for loss of enjoyment of life, but other states just lump it in with pain and suffering or "general" damages. (Learn more about general versus special damages in a personal injury case."
Further, in some states, "loss of enjoyment of life" refers to damages that compensate a plaintiff’s loss of the ability to enjoy life's activities while still living. But in other states, loss of enjoyment of life means the loss of the enjoyment of being alive that is incurred at the point of death forward (this is a component of damages that could arise in a wrongful death lawsuit, for example).
This article will focus on "loss of enjoyment of life" as a personal injury claimant's loss of the ability to enjoy life's activities while still living. And in this context, loss of enjoyment of life might be defined as:
Detrimental alterations of a person's life or lifestyle or the person's inability to participate in the activities or pleasures of life that were formerly enjoyed before the injury. Whether a person experiences a detrimental lifestyle change depends on both the nature and severity of the injury and the lifestyle of the plaintiff prior to the injury.
Proving Loss of Enjoyment of Life
A plaintiff will generally prove his or her damages related to loss of enjoyment of life claim through testimony -- the plaintiff's own testimony and sometimes that of a spouse or significant other. The plaintiff would simply testify as to all of the activities and pastimes engaged in before the injury, and how the injury has affected (limited) the plaintiff's ability to engage in and enjoy those same activities.
Loss of enjoyment of life claims are not typically going to be the largest component of a personal injury settlement. Let’s look at a couple of examples of these types of damages. A simpler case might be one in which the plaintiff suffers a back injury in a car accident, and, as a result of the injury, must give up running and weightlifting for a year. In that type of case, a jury could award the plaintiff anywhere from $5,000 to perhaps $25,000 for "loss of enjoyment" damages.
But what about a case where the plaintiff was seriously burned, is hospitalized for six months, and housebound for another six months. Even after the plaintiff is able to go out of the house, he is unable to do much for another year. And even once technically recovered, the plaintiff prefers not to go out and participate in activities because of scarring and disfigurement. In this case, the plaintiff’s life was significantly affected by his injuries. Put another way, the negative impact on his enjoyment of life is substantial. In that type of case, a jury could easily make a very large award of damages for loss of enjoyment of life that could be well into six figures, perhaps even a million dollars or more.
Learn more about figuring out how much a personal injury case is worth.