Who can place a dollar value on something so nebulous as “quality of life”? Well, the Florida judicial system can; in fact, it does it every day.
If you file a personal injury claim, you will probably claim compensation for both tangible and intangible losses. Loss of quality of life is one type of intangible (non-economic) loss you can receive money damages for.
Economic Damages, Non-Economic Damages, and Punitive Damages
Economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages are the three types of damages that Florida courts award.
Economic damages are easy-to-quantify losses such as medical bills and lost earnings. Non-economic damages are intangible losses such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. Punitive damages don’t represent losses at all. Rather, they represent a court’s desire to punish a defendant for sufficiently outrageous misbehavior.
What Is Diminished “Quality of Life” Anyway?
Diminished “quality of life” is not a formal legal term. For most people, it refers simply to one type of non-economic damages. A person’s quality of life may diminish in various ways after suffering an injury, such as not being able to work in the same type of job or role anymore
or suffering a loss of a bodily function.
Below is a list of some of the other common forms of non-economic damages and what they refer to.
Pain and Suffering
“Pain and suffering” refers to the physical and mental suffering you endure because of an accident.
Pain and suffering doesn’t simply include pain; it can also include suffering such as respiratory distress, disorientation, and much more.
Try to imagine the shock you endure as the result of a sudden, serious injury that you had no way to expect or prepare for. Imagine being on your way to work one moment and an hour later watching medical staff insert tubes into your body.
Imagine the suspense of waiting for the doctor to tell you whether you will make a full recovery, whether life will ever be the same again. This is emotional distress.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Before you suffered your injury, did you enjoy going to the gym? Did you like to take long walks with your spouse? What activities can’t you enjoy now that you could enjoy before your accident? These questions help you measure the loss of enjoyment of life.
Losing an arm is an example of bodily disfigurement. Facial scarring is another example. Reimbursement of medical expenses simply isn’t enough to compensate for this.
Loss of Consortium
If you are injured, it is your spouse, children, parents, or dependents who can file a loss of consortium claim, not you. Essentially, “consortium” means companionship, company, cooperation, aid, and fellowship. In the consequence of your spouse, it also includes intimacy and sexual relations.
Factors That Determine the Amount of Diminished “Quality of Life” Damages
A court (or a negotiator) might take a great many factors into account when trying to place a dollar value on lost quality of life, including:
- The severity and duration of your injuries
- The weight of the at-fault party’s culpability
- The relative wealth of the parties
- Age, especially if your injuries are permanent
- Education level
- Geographic location
- Activity level before your accident. What activities did you enjoy that you can no longer participate in?
- Work history
- The certainty (or uncertainty) of the opposing party’s liability
- Comparative negligence. You cannot receive damages if you were more than 50% responsible for the accident. With a lesser degree of fault, you could still lose money.
Many more factors can influence a court’s determination of diminished quality of life damages. Negotiation will proceed according to each party’s estimation of how much a court would award.
In court and in settlement negotiations, the truth only matters if you have evidence to support it. Following are some examples of evidence that injured parties frequently use to establish loss of quality of life:
- Your “pain journal”: Keep a daily journal that details your suffering and the specific ways in which your injuries have affected your overall quality of life.
- Psychological evaluations: This could help you establish your degree of emotional distress from the point of view of a neutral third-party professional.
- Testimony from others, such as friends, relatives, colleagues, or neighbors.
- Photographs of your injuries, especially any disfigurement.
Your attorney can help you collect the necessary evidence to support your claim.
Punitive Damages: Compensation vs. Punishment
Loss of quality of life damages are considered compensatory damages. Florida awards you money to compensate you for your losses, at least to the extent that money can serve as compensation. Lawyers refer to these sorts of damages as compensatory damages.
But there is another type of damages that courts sometimes award that are called punitive damages. Courts award punitive damages to punish the defendant, not to compensate you. Nevertheless, the money still ends up in your pocket.
Courts usually don’t award punitive damages. When they do, it is because they are outraged, and they are fairly certain that the defendant acted intentionally or with “gross negligence”(extreme carelessness).
A Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Calculate and Prove Your Losses
It can be difficult to calculate non-economic damages, including diminished quality of life damages. However, it’s critical to get it right. You only have one chance to recover compensation for your injuries; without legal representation, you might end up with less than you deserve. Contact a Fort Walton Beach personal injury attorney from Brannon & Brannon Personal Injury Attorneys by calling (850) 863-5297 to guide you through the process.