How to Establish Damages for Lost Household Services

Here at Van Sant Law, we understand just how stressful it can be to deal with a loss of household services. The good news is that we can help you establish just how much these damages could be worth. Economic damages are a frequent aspect of both personal injury and wrongful death claims. 
It can be useful for attorneys on both sides of the case to ask the survivors or the injured party what household services were provided by the plaintiff. 

Using the American Time Use Survey 

usa-map-1172863-7-300x206When there is thought to be a loss of household services, the American Time Use Survey is often referred to. This is because it uses the Dollar Value of a Day system to work out how many hours were spent on household service. The hours are calculated on a weekly basis and the survey uses the marital and employment statuses as well as gender and the number of children for the calculations. Finally, the Occupational Employment Statistics used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are helpful when estimating the hourly replacement for each type of service.

Service Categories 

The service categories include:

  • Caring for and helping others 
  • Household production
  • Leisure 
  • Personal time 
  • Work and education 

The Sub-categories 

The first two of the above service categories has its own sub-categories, these are:
Caring and helping – for household adults and children, non-household members, travel for household members and travel for non-household members. 
Household production – Food cooking and cleaning up, household management, inside housework, obtaining services, pets, home and vehicles, shopping, traveling for household activity.
Each one of the above sub-categories has a list of specific tasks that are found in the American Time Use Survey. The category which refers to inside housework, for example, includes the following tasks:
Inside housework – Interior cleaning, laundry, sewing, repairing, and maintaining textiles, housework not elsewhere classified, storing interior household items

The Tasks Performed by the Injured or Deceased Party 

If damages are claimed for lost household services, it’s important that questions are asked about the tasks that were performed. These are the tasks performed before, and in some cases, after the accident. The injured or deceased party does not have to have undertaken every task in each category. However, it needs to be determined whether each of the tasks was undertaken. 
Questions should be asked about how frequently each of the tasks was performed. It is not always necessary to estimate how much time was spent on each task. 

The Dollar Value of a Day 

legal malpractice claimThe Dollar Value of a Day sets out on average how much time is spent on each task. This is according to the injured or deceased party’s demographic group. This is ultimately because the calculations are usually more accurate than personal recollections. Many people overestimate how much time is spent on the tasks. 
As over-reporting on time during direct question surveys is common, we calculate lost household services that are based on a demographic group. We only adjust the average time when there is a reasonable indication that the plaintiff spent either more or less time on the task.

Spending More or Less Time on a Task 

If there is a reasonable indication that more time was spent on a task, we will endeavor to find out why. Perhaps the injured or deceased party needed to care for someone in the home. Did they live with elderly relatives who required a lot of care? 
If there is a reasonable indication that less time was spent on a task, we will endeavor to find out why. Perhaps the injured or deceased individual worked away from home and could not undertake the household services during that time. Perhaps they did not own a vehicle which meant they would not drive other people to where they needed to be. 
When there are facts that are specific to the individual, they will take precedence over any group average. However, this will only be the case when there is a reasonable indication. We will also consider how household services change over time. For example, if an individual’s children were to leave home, it is unlikely that they will have to carry out the same household services.

The Inability to Perform Household Services 

An individual who was involved in an accident where they suffered a leg injury, for example, may no longer be able to shop for groceries without using a wheelchair. However, it is up to their attorney to determine what they can still perform with or without the wheelchair. While they may no longer be able to play football, they can still watch their children play and help them with their homework.
An individual who can no longer bend down to fill the dishwasher due to a back injury might still be able to wash the dishes by hand. When these facts are established, they will ensure that a more accurate estimate of lost household services is made. 
Further questions will need to be asked about the injured party’s condition. This is so we can more accurately calculate the lost household services. The questions include:

  • Do you require more supervision around dangerous objects such as the coffee machine or oven?
  • Are you able to drive?
  • Are you able to supervise children?
  • What restrictions has your physician placed on you? 

At Van Sant Law, we understand that a loss of household services can be a huge element of your damages. Allowing us to get as much information as we can from you or the injured party will ensure we have more accurate calculations. It will also allow us to have a stronger argument for the losses incurred. 
If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, or someone you love was killed, please contact us. We are here to help you through this difficult time. We can work to ensure you’re much more likely to receive the compensation you deserve. Talk to us today. We can make a real difference to your personal injury or wrongful death claim. 

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