Loss of Enjoyment of Life: What is It and What Causes It?
When loss of enjoyment of life is a component of noneconomic damages in a personal injury case. It means the victim is unable to do things like play softball or push children on swings. Loss of enjoyment of life is an element of noneconomic damages in a personal injury case. Other kinds of noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), and emotional distress.
Pain and suffering is very similar to loss of enjoyment of life. But pain and suffering is usually a daily thing. Injury victims cannot climb stairs, must take pain pills every few hours, and so on. In contrast, loss of enjoyment of life is usually an occasional thing.
The noneconomic effects of a personal injury are usually permanent. That’s because the injuries discussed below are normally permanent, at least to an extent. So, when calculating a claim’s settlement value, an attorney must take this factor into account. Otherwise, the victim suffers almost every day and receives no compensation, even though the injury accident was someone else’s fault.
Medical records establish the extent of physical injuries. Emotional injuries, like loss of enjoyment of life, require a different approach.
Usually, a friend or relative provides before-and-after testimony. For example, Lisa might testify that, before the accident, her mom was very active. Since the accident, her mom mostly sits and watches TV.
What is Loss of Enjoyment of Life?
All noneconomic damages are difficut to calculate. Loss of enjoyment of life may be the hardest one, because the category is rather vague.
We reviewed the primary facotors above. Some additional considerations include the injury’s effect on personal relationships and the victim’s future outlook.
Personal injuries strain professional, romantic, social, and familial relationships. The psychological strain creates additional physical strain, trapping the victim in a downward spiral. Furthermore, it’s hard to cultivate these relationships when the future looks bleak, due to ongoing medical issues.
Airbags, seatbelts, and other restraint systems partially protect car crash victims from head injuries. Other people, like pedestrian accident and fall victims, don’t get this protection. So, they’re completely exposed to head trauma injuries.
Furthermore, the aforementioned restraint systems don’t eliminate all, or even most, crash-related head injuries. A car wreck’s violent motion causes the brain to slam against the inside of the skull. Moreover, airbags provide limited protection. If you bang your head into a large pillow, the pillow only cushions the impact with the floor or other hard surface.
Diagnosis issues plague these injuries. The brain conceals its own wounds. Many concussed athletes tell coaches they “feel fine,” so they can immediately return to the game. Likewise, many car crash victims tell emergency responders they “feel fine.” Therefore, they don’t get the treatment they need and their injuries get worse.
Severe head injuries are permanent. If brain cells die, they never regenerate. Some victims experience permanent physical symptoms, like headaches or personality changes (e.g. periods of severe depression). Other victims deal with loss of motor skills or sensory loss. So, for the rest of their lives, most head injury victims have good days and bad days, resulting in substantial loss of enjoyment of life.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Like brain injuries, spinal cord injuries are very painful. Unlike brain injuries, spine injuries severely limit mobility.
Also unlike head injuries, spine injuries are very common, even in low-speed wrecks. The spine is a long chain of delicate bones interlaced with raw nerves. The aforementioned motion usually misaligned the spine, causing a cascade of problems, mostly paralysis issues.
Now, for the pain part. Spine injuries usually include bulging or herniated discs that pinch nerves. In terms of a treatment, these victims must choose between addictive pain pills and radical surgery. That’s not much of a choice.
Chronic pain is directly related to loss of enjoyment of life. Pain immediately after an injury is good. It alerts people that something’s wrong. Chronic pain is very bad. Its unending nature causes extreme loss of enjoyment of life. Chronic pain often causes anxiety, depression, and other mood changes, disrupts sleep, and interferes with the ability to function.
The combination of increased pain and decreased mobility leads to severe loss of enjoyment of life. Especially on bad days, these victims must limit or eliminate physical activity. This unpredictability might be the worst aspect of a spine injury. Victims simply don’t know how they’ll feel from day to day.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Whiplash, a head/spine injury, might be the most common soft tissue injury. Initial symptoms, such as neck soreness and general disorientation, resemble accident shock. That similarity, along with a victim’s assertion that s/he “feels fine,” usually prompts doctors to overlook this injury. As a result, it gets worse.
Other kinds of soft tissue injuries, which X-rays and other common diagnostic tests do not detect, include:
- Wrist and ankle sprains (seat belts usually allow victims’ legs and arms to flail wildly during wrecks),
- Back, calf, hamstring, and other muscle strains, and
- Elbow tendonitis.
Physically, these injuries aren’t too serious. But they have an outsized effect on the victim’s loss of enjoyment of life. So, the medical treatment bills are low and the emotional cost is high.
This dynamic creates settlement issues. Most insurance company lawyers assume there’s a direct connection between medical bills and loss of enjoyment of life. Only a well-prepared attorney dispels this myth and obtains maximum compensation for serious injuries.
As mentioned, victims’ arms and legs are usually unprotected during car crashes. They’re completely unprotected during dog bite knockdowns and other personal injuries.
Doctors typically use metal parts, like plates and pins, to surgically reconstruct these bones. Since these victims are in such poor physical condition, doctors must normally perform multiple reconstructive surgical procedures. As a result, the recovery time is longer. Furthermore, physical therapy is longer, more difficult, and more expensive.
Usually, the loss of enjoyment of life doesn’t end on the last day of physical therapy. Most broken bone victims permanently lose range of motion in a shoulder, knee, elbow, or other joint. Everyday activities, like walking the dog, become impossible acts.
This long, difficult process often creates settlement issues as well. Most insurance companies use actuarial tables (A injury in B Zip code requires C amount of money to treat) in these cases. But not all broken bones are created equally. If Billy falls out of his treehouse, his broken bones will be relatively easy to treat. If a pit bull mauls Billy, his broken bones will be permanent.
Even a partial loss of hearing, sight, taste, or another sense could be devastating. These losses, which are usually related to head injuries, severely limit victims’ abilities to care for themselves. Many of these victims require adaptive devices which significantly decrease their independence. These costs reduce enjoyment of life. Victims who must hire home healthcare nurses can’t afford to spend a weekend at the lake.
Furthermore, sensory loss injuries have emotional effects. Hearing loss is a good example. These victims normally withdraw from family and friends, since they cannot participate in conversations. As a result, they become depressed or otherwise mentally ill. Since Raging Bull prizefighter Jake LaMotta was partially deaf, he was prone to fits of extreme anger.