Quantifying Damages: Housekeeping and Home Maintenance

By Roger Foisy on July 15th, 2016

After suffering a personal injury from an at-fault party, victims are entitled to compensation for the serious injury and any resulting disability. A personal injury lawyer fights to secure the maximum settlement for their injured client, based on their ability to demonstrate the extent of the “damages” the person sustained across all facets of their life (work, home, social, etc.).

Personal InjuryIn this article, we will discuss how to quantify housekeeping and home maintenance damages – a type of damage that may not be the first thing you think of when injured, but which can have a major impact on your life.

In 2011, Statistics Canada published a report, “General Social Survey – 2010 Overview of the Time Use of Canadians”, which outlines how the average Canadian spends their time. The report shows that Canadians spend, on average, 3 to 4 hours per day on “household work and related activities”. This shows how significant these tasks are in a person’s everyday life; and therefore, how essential it is to receive compensation for them if an injury impacts your ability to do them.

The most impactful decision pertaining to housekeeping and home maintenance in Ontario, which continues to define how courts view these claims, was the Ontario appeal decision in McIntyre v. Docherty [2009]. In this case, the plaintiff was awarded a total of $59,935 for housekeeping losses.

The Court of Appeal provided the following guidelines which a court should use to assess housekeeping claims:

  • If the plaintiff does housework inefficiently or leaves the housekeeping chores undone before trial due to the plaintiff’s impairments that would only increase the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary general damages claim and would not form a separate head of damages.
  • If the plaintiff retains the services of someone to perform housekeeping or home maintenance tasks for her or him before trial as a result of their impairments, that cost may be claimed as a special damage.
  • If the plaintiff would like to claim past housekeeping and/or home maintenance losses based on gratuitous work done by a family member(s), that claim must be plead and evidence must be led to support it.
  • If the plaintiff chooses to claim for future loss of housekeeping this can be done by way of a pecuniary loss claim which forms a separate head of damages and would be based on the cost of retaining the services of someone in the future to perform these tasks.
  • The plaintiff need not prove that she or he will actually pay a third party to recover such expenses.

McIntyre v. Docherty [2009], O.J. No. 2185 (C.A.)

Below, I will further explain the points listed from the appeal court’s decision above.

Claiming Non-pecuniary Housekeeping and Home Maintenance Losses

Non-pecuniary damages are damages that are not easily quantified in terms of money, similar to compensation for pain and suffering.

The first point in the list above (“If the plaintiff does housework inefficiently or leaves the housekeeping chores undone…”) addresses the need for compensation if, as a result of pain and limitations from the injury, the person has been unable to do housework as efficiently as before, and/or has had to avoid certain chores altogether.

The non-pecuniary losses that can be compensated are the loss of identity associated with work performed in the home, loss of an orderly and functional home, as well as continuing to perform housework despite the increased pain and suffering it causes.

As McIntyre v. Docherty [2009] established, these intangible losses can be quantified and rewards can be received for them.

Claiming Pecuniary Housekeeping and Home Maintenance Losses

Pecuniary damages are damages that are easily quantified in terms of money, such as compensation for receiving a specific service.

The remaining points on the list deal with pecuniary damages that the injured person can claim based on how much housekeepers charge per hour (e.g. $18/hour).

If the injured person has hired someone to perform housework or home maintenance since the injury, they are entitled to receive compensation for the fees charged by the service provider.

If a family member or another person has been helping with housework for free since the injury (e.g. their mother), it is considered a “gratuitous work claim”. The person has performed a service, which should be compensated according to industry standards.

The injured person may require ongoing housekeeping services due to their injury; another set of damages can be claimed based on the costs of retaining housekeeping services into the future. For these damages, the plaintiff does not have to prove they will actually pay a third party to recover the expenses.

How to Quantify Housekeeping and Home Maintenance Damages

Domestic tasks are necessary to maintain a hygienic, orderly living space. Housekeeping and home maintenance are valuable services that most individuals perform for themselves on an unpaid basis; however, when an injury impacts a person’s ability to do so, they are entitled to compensation to ensure they are still able to receive these services from a third party.

To fully quantify housekeeping and home maintenance damages, it’s important to distinguish between what you were able to do before the injury, and what you can/cannot do after.

It can be difficult to generate a comprehensive report of everything the injury has impacted. Many people perform housekeeping tasks automatically, such as tidying or wiping kitchen countertops, and may not remember to include it. Conversely, some tasks are so infrequent that we may forget about them, like changing lightbulbs. However, it is critical to think of every task you can, so your lawyer can quantify every aspect of housekeeping and/or home maintenance claim and ensure you receive the settlement you deserve.

Your lawyer should help you track and record the various housekeeping and home maintenance tasks that must be considered for your settlement.

A thorough lawyer should take the time to fully understand your specific situation, including your life and responsibilities before and after your accident, to ensure you do not under-settle your case. By quantifying every claim, including housekeeping and home maintenance damages, you will receive a fair settlement that will help to ease your financial burden during your recovery.

If you have sustained a personal injury at another party’s fault, please contact me and my team of experienced personal injury lawyers for a free consultation.

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