It’s a sad but true fact of life. When a girl or young woman is badly injured, her chances of getting married diminish significantly. Aside from the impact on her pleasure in life, there’s also a financial blow – she may lose the benefit from the earnings of a future husband.
In recent years, Canadian courts have recognized this fact. When determining the total future economic loss resulting from a serious injury, they’ve started to compensate single, young, female plaintiffs for their “loss of opportunities for interdependent relationships” (LOIR).
Perhaps the first case to make an award for this loss comes from BC. In Reekie v. Messervey, a 27-year-old woman suffered traumatic paraplegia in a car accident.
At trial, evidence was presented showing that 91% of all Canadian women marry at least once, that a married couple can live more cheaply than two single people, and that since her injury, the victim had a very small chance of getting married. The judge awarded $50,000 specifically for her lost opportunity to marry, and this amount was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal.
Another BC case involves 17-year-old Sarah R. Unhappy with her boyfriend’s decision to go bike riding with the defendant, she protested – as a teenager might – by sitting on the hood of the defendant’s car. Tragically, he started driving anyway, and she fell off, striking her head on the pavement. She suffered a permanent brain injury affecting her ability to work and develop relationships with people. Her award for future economic loss of $725,000 included a component for LOIR.
To assess the value of a LOIR claim, economic consultants have to figure out the kind of husband the young woman would have married. Would he have been wealthy, or not? Statistically, females tend to marry men with a higher social status. And women who are university educated tend to marry men who are also university educated. So if the evidence shows that the girl or woman probably would have married a man with an MBA earning a six-figure income, then her loss should be greater than for the loss of an “average husband.”
Of course, there are factors that can also reduce the amount of a claim. The expert economic advice given in the Ontario trial involving Rachel O, 20 at the time, who became a paraplegic with little brain function, factored into the calculations such things as a 23% chance that Rachel wouldn’t have married even if she hadn’t been injured, the chance that her husband might have only had a high school diploma or less, the possibility of divorce and the possibility of caring for children as a result of marriage. But based on everything, the amount the court viewed as fair for her loss of marriageability was still $125,000.
Thankfully, most injuries from car accidents aren’t as serious as these cases. So for most females, there may be no LOIR component of the claim. But many accidents do lead to some lost income as a result of missing work and other losses. Your lawyer can help you determine the value of your claim and the compensation that would be fair.
Janice Mucalov, LL.B. for Gertsoyg & Company. This column provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call Gertsoyg & Company at (604) 602-3066 for a free legal consultation concerning your particular case.