|When a patient is injured by the negligence of a healthcare provider, his or her injuries may not be limited by the aches, pains, or physical deformities caused by the medical malpractice. Many courts now allow these plaintiffs to recover for the loss of enjoyment of life, which often occurs as the result of a permanent injury. What is the scope of damages for the loss of enjoyment of life, or hedonic damages? These awards compensate the injured patient for the loss of his or her former recreational, family, social, or career pursuits as well as the patient's future inability to perform elementary physical and intellectual tasks taken for granted by most people.
In defining loss of enjoyment claims, courts have considered the following claims: impairment of a patient's mental state; patient's knowledge of the extent of his injury; disfigurement; loss of sight; loss of ability to manage one's own affairs; restriction on physical activities; loss of recreational abilities; loss of capacity to engage in sexual relations, and a shortened life expectancy. Some courts have limited the loss of enjoyment of life to a living patient who has suffered the loss because it is the patient's consciousness of his inability to enjoy life's pleasures that make up the claim. Thus, any recovery for loss of enjoyment of life is limited to the period between the malpractice and the patient's death.
Courts that specifically permit a claim for loss of enjoyment of life take two different approaches. Some courts refuse to allow a separate category of damages for loss of enjoyment of life but permit those losses to be considered as an element of the more traditional category of pain and suffering and/or disability. Other courts permit a recovery for loss of enjoyment of life as a separate and distinct element of damages.
Generally, the proof required to establish a loss of enjoyment of life claim is similar to that required to prove pain and suffering. This may include the patient's testimony along with that of his family, friends, fellow workers, and expert witnesses if needed to testify on the nature of the injury and the extent of the patient's impairment.
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