What is a woman’s worth? A question the law has grappled with many times over the course of history on issues such as the right to vote or be raped by one’s spouse (I was shocked to learn in a sociology class that this law only changed in 1983). But what is a woman’s worth if she is injured as a result of someone else’s negligence (i.e. car accident, medical malpractice, assault, fall, etc.)? How do you put a number on that?
There are aspects to a woman’s claim that are often unique or tend to play a more prominent role. Many of my female clients will say to me “you are a woman, you will understand,” which I believe I do. Today women are often expected to do it all, so our identity often takes many forms: student, career woman, mother, spouse, housekeeper, family coordinator, chauffeur, friend, seamstress, athlete, etc. All of these things make up our worth and should be considered in an injury claim.
The objective of compensation in an injury claim is to put you back in the same position that you would have been in, if your accident had not occurred (as best as money can do). In order to do that, the law looks at the difference between the path your life was on before your accident and the path your life has taken as a result of your accident.
If you have a steady employment history, this will most likely increase your worth in terms of valuing past and future loss of earning capacity. If your career path before the accident was uncertain, unfortunately this means that statistical data will often be used to calculate your employment loss (if any) which often means that you will be compensated a rate less than your male counterparts.
If you are still in child bearing years and your injuries have impacted or have the potential to impact your ability to conceive, carry a baby, or deliver a baby, then this can be a significant factor in compensation. Coping with your pain is more challenging when you unable to take medication due to pregnancy or breast feeding. Trauma can also have an impact on post-partum depression.
A woman’s ability to care for her children, family members, as well as do other unpaid work around the home is also key. I know that if I was injured, without help, my kids would not get to go to many of their activities which would add to everyone’s stress. If you are no longer able contribute to your household, the loss can be significant including costs of childcare or help at home and the court accepts that you should be compensated for this loss.
For many of us, a large part of our self-worth, whether we like it or not, is contained in our perception of our physical appearance/sexual attractiveness. Injuries can result in obvious changes to one’s physical appearance such as disfigurement; scarring, weight gain or the addition of mobility aids such as a wheel chair. When your physical appearance is altered or your psychological well-being is affected (directly or indirectly as a result of the accident), it can have significant consequences to your self-esteem which impacts all aspects of your life: physical, psychological, financial and relational/sexual health.
Tied to all of the above issues is the potential claim for “loss of opportunity to marry”, also known as “lost opportunity of family income”, or “lost opportunity to form a permanent interdependency relationship”. There are two types of losses in this situation that arise: emotional (the loss of a loving relationship) and financial. Two incomes and shared expenses have its benefits. If an accident means that you are unlikely to benefit from such a relationship than you may be able to claim compensation for this loss.
Proper compensation in any injury claim requires a full appreciation for how all aspects of someone’s life have been or may be affected. In short, a woman’s worth in an injury claim is as unique as she is.