Damages for Loss of Enjoyment of Life Under California Law

Loss of enjoyment of life (LEL) damages - sometimes referred to as "hedonic damages," or lost pleasure - can constitute a substantial portion of total claimed damages in a personal injury claim, depending on the circumstances. As they are subjective in nature, LEL damages tend to be misconstrued and misunderstood by those who do not have the necessary experience in handling such claims.

California courts accept LEL damages as a component of pain and suffering damages. Like other non-economic damage components, LEL damages are deemed purely subjective in nature, and any attempt at measuring such damages objectively has been rejected.

Understandably, this can all be quite confusing for the injured plaintiff who does not have prior litigation experience. Let's consider the basics for a clearer picture of how you might be able to recover damages for your various hedonic losses.

What are LEL Damages, Exactly?

LEL damages are non-economic damages. Whereas economic damages such as wage loss, medical expenses, and property loss are objectively measurable, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and LEL are subjectively measurable. There is no objective test for determining the degree of "pleasure" loss related to one's lifestyle that one suffers as a result of their injuries.

When speaking in these legal terms, painting a picture of LEL damages will result in an incomplete image, so let's use a quick example for clarity.

Suppose that you are severely injured in a motor vehicle accident. After the accident, you have not only sustained substantial medical expenses and wage loss damages, as well as pain and suffering damages, but you are also no longer capable of walking. Your injury has had an enormous negative effect on your enjoyment of life - before the injury, you were an active rock climber, and would regularly go hiking with friends. Perhaps you even led community groups on hikes, as part of your social life.

Given the above fact pattern, you could almost certainly make a damage claim that includes an assertion of LEL damages. However, as there is no objective way to measure LEL damages, you will have to use different criteria to try to "zero in" on a damage estimate. For example, you could estimate the price that you would have paid for a safety device that might have prevented the injury.

LEL damages cover losses that include, but are not necessarily limited, to:

  • Loss of hobbies and other pleasurable activities
  • Inability to attend social events
  • Diminished quality of life (generally), including social life
  • Diminished ability to engage with family and friends
  • Feelings of inadequacy and humiliation
  • And more

Challenges in Obtaining LEL Damages

There are a number of continuing challenges associated with LEL damages that you're likely to encounter as you begin the litigation process. These challenges include:

  • Convincing the jury of the significance of the damages you sustained to your quality of life, particularly given the fact that LEL damages are counted as a component of pain and suffering in California;
  • Choosing the right criteria for calculating the total damages, as LEL damages are inherently subjective in nature;
  • Creating a persuasive argument for the suffered loss - you will have to show that the inability to engage in a particular way constitutes a real loss (for example, an isolated loner would not necessarily have substantial social life losses);
  • Avoiding excessive claims that are not supported by the evidence, as this may undermine your stronger damages claims;
  • And more

Recovering LEL damages requires the skillful advocacy of an experienced attorney - they must be handled in such a way that the jury understands that they are separate (in kind) from basic pain and suffering.

Speak to an Experienced San Jose Personal Injury Attorney for Further Assistance

If you have suffered injuries due to the negligent or wrongful acts of another person (or entity), then you may be entitled to damages under California law - depending on the particular circumstances surrounding your various losses, however, you may be able to assert LEL damages.

Successful litigation of a personal injury claim requires a well-informed strategy oriented around obtaining maximum compensation for the injuries at-issue. It is not enough to prove the liability of the defendant - you must make a reasonable attempt to secure all the damages to which you're entitled.

Attorney Brian J. O'Grady has served the interests of injured plaintiffs for over 35 years, assisting them with every aspect of litigation, from evidence gathering to settlement negotiations and trial. Here at the Law Offices of Brian J. O'Grady, we are committed to a thorough, client-oriented approach, and leave no stone unturned. This preparedness gives us a substantial advantage during early negotiations, helping us secure favorable settlements well in advance of trial.

Call (650) 631-3181 or submit an online claim form to speak to an experienced San Jose personal injury attorney today. Consultation is free and confidential.