VALUE OF HOUSEHOLD SERVICES
How Do You Value a Day’s Worth of (House)work?
The premise of a California personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit is simple: you and/or your loved ones and family have suffered injuries, losses, and expenses on account of the negligent behavior of another person. The person that caused these injuries, losses, and expenses should, therefore, bear the responsibility for paying for them. But before a court will order the responsible party to pay for your losses and expenses, the law requires that you, the injured plaintiff, prove not only that you did in fact suffer an injury or loss but also the amount of that injury or loss, expressed in terms of dollars.
Proving Lost Wages and Lost Future Earnings in General
Two such losses frequently requested in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are lost wages and lost earning potential or future earnings. Where the individual injured or killed was employed outside the home, these losses are relatively easy to calculate. You and your attorney would examine the most recent earning statements and attendance records of the victim to determine lost wages. Future earnings that the victim will not be able to collect would be estimated by looking at the victim’s pay rate and the amount of time that it will take the victim to return to working in his or her previous at that pay rate or in a similar capacity, less any money the victim is actually making.
Loss of Household Services: Is It Really Compensable Work?
Sometimes the injury victim does not work outside the home but rather provides household services on behalf of his or her family. These services have a value to the family, and the family of a victim that is either temporarily or permanently unable to provide these household services should be able to recover the value of those services. But attaching a dollar figure to these services can be difficult and speculative in nature. How should a client and his or her attorney value the contributions and services provided by a stay-at-home family member who can no longer provide the home-based services he or she used to provide for the family? How do we determine the value of household services?
Two Approaches Calculating the Value of Household Services
There are two main approaches that can be used when determining the amount of damages to be sought for the loss of household services. The first approach looks to break down “household services” into component parts – laundry, food preparation, child care, etc. – and then use the average national wage for someone who engages in that profession as the value. For example, suppose a victim engages in 20 hours of food preparation (including shopping) a week and the average chef earns $15.00 an hour. In this case, damages should be sought for $300 per week for each week the victim is expected to be injured and unable to prepare his or her family’s food. (The process would then be repeated for each household service the victim provides.) A local economist could provide better estimations as to the local wage for various jobs and tasks if the local wage is higher than the national average, as tends to be the case in California.
A second approach asks not what the going “market rate” for a particular service is but instead asks what it would actually cost to hire an individual to perform a particular service (recognizing that there may not be an equivalent out-of-the-home job for every household service provided). If this approach is used, oftentimes the victim’s family will receive compensatory damages that more fully compensate them for their actual loss.
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. My team of legal professionals and I are committed to helping you and your family recover the maximum amount of compensation after a personal injury accident. We take the time to understand your situation and losses so that we can argue effectively for the monetary damages you need. Contact me, Ed Smith, today by calling (916) 921-6400.
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