Loss of Housekeeping Capacity
An injury that impacts your ability to perform household tasks like cooking, cleaning, laundry, or yardwork can quickly put the value of your ability to do those things into perspective.
Fortunately, our legal system recognizes that household work has economic value, and that our ability to perform that work is in itself a valuable asset.
The basis for loss of capacity to perform valuable services – more commonly known as “housekeeping capacity” – as a compensable head of damages in personal injury law is simple: the plaintiff is entitled to damages to the extent that they have been rendered incapable of completing household tasks that they otherwise would have been capable of performing.
The value of the claim is essentially the replacement cost of the tasks or services the plaintiff can no longer perform. In some cases, the analysis can be relatively straightforward. For instance, if you break your leg and have to pay someone to handle your snow shoveling duties while you recover, you would be entitled to recover that expense as the replacement value of household work you otherwise would have performed.
However, because these claims are intended to compensate plaintiffs for their loss of the ability to perform household work, the plaintiff’s entitlement to damages is not tied to out-of-pocket expenses. Meaning, household work that is performed by family members, or that is not done at all, but otherwise would have been performed by the plaintiff, is still compensable. The value of the loss can be determined by the market rate of replacement labour for those tasks the plaintiff can no longer perform.
In order to successfully claim damages for loss of housekeeping capacity, the plaintiff must prove the scope and the value of the loss, which requires appropriate evidence. Evidence from experts such as occupational therapists (ie. to explain the functional impairments caused by the plaintiff’s injuries) and economists (ie. to establish the market rate of replacement services, or the present value of a claim for future losses) is required. Evidence from non-expert witnesses, such as the family members that have stepped up to take over household tasks the plaintiff can no longer perform, can be invaluable as well.
Ultimately, even where the plaintiff proves that they have suffered a loss, a failure to adduce appropriate evidence to show the value of that loss invariably results in the plaintiff being undercompensated.
If you’ve been injured and would like to discuss a potential claim with a lawyer, you can contact our team here.
by Luke Young