Quality of Life
“Diminished quality of life” is a non-economic damage that you can claim in a personal injury lawsuit. Think about the activities and experiences that make life worth living—hobbies, friends, work, family time, etc. If you suffer a severe injury, you might lose the ability to enjoy some or all of these activities and experiences.
Your quality of life is worth something. But can you value it in dollars and cents? Maybe you can’t, but courts do it all the time. The only question is, how much is this component of your claim worth? The answer is inherently subjective. This subjectivity is a problem if you represent yourself but an opportunity if you have hired an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Possible Components of a Quality of Life Claim
Possible components of a “diminished quality of life” claim include loss of the ability to:
- Play sports;
- Converse with your family and friends (if you suffer from a traumatic brain injury, for example);
- Enjoy sexual relations with your spouse (your spouse can file an additional claim of “loss of consortium” over your loss of sexual function);
- Work at a job you enjoy;
- Feed, dress, and bathe yourself.
Many more activities might make up a diminished quality of life claim, depending on the nature and severity of your injuries and your lifestyle before you were injured.
Other Factors That Can Affect the Value of Your Claim
The following factors can affect the value of your claim, even though they do not constitute activities that you once enjoyed:
- The severity of your injuries. The more severe your injuries are, the longer your list of disabilities will become.
- The longevity of your disability. A few weeks confined to a wheelchair will cost you less enjoyment of life than a lifetime in a wheelchair.
- Your age at the time of your accident or illness: Assume that your disabilities are permanent. The younger you are, the more years of enjoyment of life you lose.
- Your lifestyle before the accident. For example, the inability to ride a bicycle won’t add to the value of your claim if you can’t ride a bike. However, this component of your claim might matter more if you regularly participated in bicycle races before your accident.
- Any social embarrassment you suffer as a result of your injuries. Severe facial disfigurement, for example, could affect your perception of yourself and your relationships with others.
A complete list of factors that can affect quality of life claim would be too long to list here.
Potential Threats to Your Personal Injury Claim
Following are a few of the most commonly asserted defenses to personal injury claims. If the defendant prevails, you might lose your entire claim, including the “diminished quality of life” component.
Under Oklahoma’s “modified comparative negligence” rules, you can still win damages even if you share fault for the accident, as long as you were no more than 49% at fault. In this case, your damages will be reduced to account for your share of damages.
If you were 10% at fault, for example, you would lose 10% of your damages. However, if your percentage of fault was 50% or more, you would receive nothing; you might have to pay damages to the other party to the accident.
Assumption of the Risk
Some activities are inherently dangerous, and there is no practical way to make them safer. If you agree to participate in an activity and understand the dangers, you have assumed the risk of injury.
For example, suppose you voluntarily participate in a professional boxing match. Then, you sue your opponent for knocking you out. Your opponent could almost certainly defeat your claim with an assumption of the risk defense. The “assumption of the risk” defense might also defeat your claim if you signed a waiver of liability form before participating in the activity (courts sometimes ignore such waivers, however).
Insurance Policy Limits
If you rely on an insurance policy for compensation, be aware that every policy includes a payout limit. Without a payout limit, insurance companies would go bankrupt. If your claim exceeds the policy’s payout limit, you will have to find another way to satisfy your claim. For example, you might make a claim against the defendant’s personal assets.
You Need a Lawyer to Help You Recover Money for Diminished Quality of Life
The inherent ambiguity in a “diminished quality of life” claim necessitates the assistance of a seasoned personal injury lawyer to ensure that you benefit from this ambiguity instead of suffering from it. Our personal injury lawyers at McGuire Law Firm will be happy to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your claim.