Recoverable Losses

Sometimes a person’s injuries from an auto accident are so severe that a spouse or another family member must take time off from work to care for that injured family member. On occasion, that time off from work is for a very long time or even permanent. Can the spouse or family member who stays home recover those lost wages?

The Ohio Supreme Court recently addressed this question. In this case, the wife suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of an auto accident caused by another’s negligence. Her brain injury affected her thinking, speaking, and abilities to perform household activities. Unfortunately, her injuries were permanent.

Her husband, who was a financial planner, lost a great deal of time from work when he stayed home to care for his wife and his earnings were greatly reduced. As a result, he claimed that he was entitled to recover for the earnings he lost when he spent hours at home caring for his wife. He hired an economist to demonstrate how much money he had lost in the past and would likely lose in the future as a result of his reduced earning potential.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that he could not recover for his decreased earnings. The court ruled that the proper way to measure this loss was to place a value on the husband’s services. What would it cost to hire someone such as a nurse’s aid to stay with his wife? This amount could be recovered as part of the wife’s claim, not his lost wages.

Unfortunately, the attorney representing this couple did not provide any evidence on what this care would cost. As a result, the couple could not recover either the husband’s lost earning capacity nor were they awarded any money to compensate the husband as his wife’s caretaker.