Loss of Household Services: An Overlooked Element of Damages

When we ask our clients questions about the “loss of household services,” they usually don’t realize that they should be compensated for this element of damages.  In a personal injury action, common items of damage include economic damages, such as medical expenses (past and future), lost wages, and lost earning capacity, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering,etc.  But recoverable damages also include the value of “loss of household services.”  For example, let’s suppose that our plaintiff, due to her injury in a motor vehicle collision, is unable to do all the usual things she did for her household, i.e. cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, gardening, maintenance, laundry, driving to and from medical appointments, etc.  If she has to hire and pay someone to perform those tasks, that cost comes under the heading of “loss of household services.”  Even if a spouse or family member provided those services without charge (“gratuitiously provided”), those services still have a value.  The value is determined by simply calculating how much you would have to pay someone else to perform that service.  A current Janssen Malloy LLP case provides a good example.
Our client was injured in a head-on collision on Highway 101, suffering orthopedic fracture injuries.  Her father came out from Wisconsin to care for her during the acute phase of her injury and recovery, providing 24-hour per day care for a month.  As her father, he did not submit a charge for this service.  However, those services are compensable damages under the law for which the defendant is liable.  We collected data from local in-home support agencies, calculating what they would charge for that service.  Such damages are specifically recoverable under Arambula v. Wells (1999)72 CA4th 1006.  Gratuitously provided medical treatment is likewise compensable.  In appropriate cases, we have engaged an economist to provide expert data and testimony about the value of these lost household services, to productive effect for our clients.
If a person has a severe injury with permanent residual impacts, the loss of household services number can be quite large.  The attorneys at Janssen Malloy LLP are experienced in evaluating and proving such damages for clients we represent, and stand ready to assist you or your family if the need arises.