An auto accident settlement includes several different types of damages for future losses. Loss of enjoyment of life, future loss of earning capacity, future pain and suffering, and future disability are related but different. First, lets define these unique types of damages and then fill in how Wisconsin courts have addressed them.
Future Loss of Earning Capacity
Future loss of earning capacity is a special damage, meaning it is ‘special’ or specific to this injured person’s ability to earn money and is capable of computation in a specific dollar amount. A $27 an hour mason suffers a permanent back injury in a car accident and must now work in an office earning $17 an hour, has a sizable loss of future earnings, which we can calculate fairly precisely. On the other hand, after a serious wrist injury, a drywall contractor can no longer physically drywall, but now he makes more money focusing on marketing and business, paying others to do the physical work – has no future loss of earning capacity. However, he does have a loss of enjoyment of life claim related to his work because the physical aspect of the job provided him with enjoyment.
Future Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages compensate for physical and mental discomfort causes by an injury. Loss of enjoyment of life compensates for losing the ability to enjoy something. An ankle injury may heal without pain but still prevents an avid runner from running. He may not have a future pain and suffering claim per se, but he has a future loss of enjoyment of life claim.
A man with a permanently deformed little finger has healed with no pain, and he can still do his job and participate in all his enjoyment activities – but he has a bent finger, which he and others can plainly see. Similar to a scar (assuming no modeling loss of earnings) there is a disability that demands compensation quite apart from loss of earnings, pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
Future Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Loss of enjoyment of life results from the inability to engage in activities (work or recreational) from which a person gained pleasure or satisfaction or enjoyment. This type of damage is also called hedonic damages, but that term has unnecessary negative connotations.
Wisconsin car accident settlement law recognizes each of these losses as a separate element of damages, although Wisconsin conflates future pain and suffering, disability and loss of enjoyment of life into one jury instruction and often a single verdict question. See WJI Civil 1767 Personal Injuries: Future Pain, Suffering, and Disability (Disfigurement).
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