Written by attorney Rodney Mesriani

An Overview of Hedonic Damages

Whether an accident is only minor or extremely catastrophic, the people involved are likely to be affected in more ways than one. For example, not only can victims acquire injuries that may turn severe or fatal, their personal properties can also get damaged. To add insult to injury, they may face financial woes due to their loss of capacity to earn and expenses made to pay off medical and repair costs.

With the extensive need to shell out money, it’s no wonder why accident victims fervently fight for their right to receive the compensation they feel deserve, especially if they don’t have sufficient money to begin with. That is why plaintiffs of accident claims have the right to recover both property damage and injury claim compensation from the liable party.

One of the lesser known types of damages under personal injury suits is hedonic damages. Derived from the Greek word “hedonikos" which means pleasure or pleasurable, this type was first used by economist Stanley V. Smith. Hedonic Damages is a non-economic type of damage that is used to refer to the loss of enjoyment of life, life’s pleasures, or the value of life in general. It may also be referred to as the lost intangible value of life.

Unlike other types of compensation, the amount for hedonic damages cannot easily be determined, as logically, the value of human life cannot be measured in monetary terms.

The approach needed to determine the amount of damages should be subjective, preferably with the help of an economic expert witness testimony knowledgeable in the economic research on the value of a statistical life (VSL).

Hedonic damages may be recovered even if no injury has taken place, or in some wrongful death cases and Federal Section 1983 civil rights violation actions. Some of the states that allow such are New Hampshire, Georgia, Arkansas, Connecticut, and Hawaii. However, not all jurisdictions allow the awarding of this type of damages.

Another way to determine the value of life is by using the willingness-to-pay model. The amount of WTP is the amount a person is willing to pay for their safety, resulting to a reduction of their chances of getting injured or killed.

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