Measuring damages for lost enjoyment of life: the view from the bench and the jury box

Law Hum Behav. 2003 Feb;27(1):53-68. doi: 10.1023/a:1021626928063.


Civil jury instructions are inconsistent in defining what constitutes noneconomic damages, which may include pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life (LEL), among other injury sequelae. This inconsistency has been manifested recently in court decisions that have considered whether LEL should be treated as a separate element of noneconomic damages, distinct from pain and suffering. This paper reviews the case law on this issue and also describes a jury simulation experiment. Mock jurors awarded damages after they received instructions on noneconomic damages in which LEL was (1) not identified as a distinct element of damages; (2) defined as an element of damages distinct from pain and suffering, but participants awarded a single amount for noneconomic damages; or (3) defined as a distinct element of damages, and participants awarded separate amounts for LEL and pain and suffering. Instructions about LEL resulted in larger awards, but only when mock jurors also made a separate award for that element of damages.

Publication types

  • Legal Case

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Compensation and Redress / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judicial Role*
  • Liability, Legal / economics*
  • Male
  • Pain / economics
  • Quality of Life / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Research
  • Stress, Psychological / economics
  • Students / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / economics