Let’s talk about what’s recoverable and what’s not. You’ve been injured, perhaps by a defective drug, a drunk driver, or a dangerous condition. You’ve been off work for 30 days, but your employer offers liberal benefits and has continued to pay you. Meanwhile, your injuries in all likelihood have shortened your life expectancy. What’s recoverable?

Most people think they know the answer, but when they guess, they’re wrong. The facts will surprise you.
Lost time from work as a result of illness or injury is compensable, whether or not your employer offers sick pay. Sick pay is a benefit you’ve earned. It doesn’t belong to the wrongdoer and he doesn’t get any credit for it when he injures you. In our example the wrongdoer is liable to compensate you for all 30 of your lost days. If you are someone who typically earns overtime, you are entitled to that as well. The exact results in each case will differ, depending on the facts. For an answer specific to you, ask your personal injury lawyer.

On the other hand, it seems as though a shortened life would be an injury for which damages would be awarded. It is not. Maryland, like other states, does not permit recovery for the foreshortening of life expectancy. If you lose your life as a result of injury, your loved ones can make a statutory claim. If you survive, but are worried about your future as a result of compensable physical injuries, these emotional worries may be included as part of your pain and suffering damages. But the shortened life expectancy itself does not earn you an award. After all, you’re not going to be around to experience it. Or so the argument goes.

It seems unfair that a wrongdoer can steal years from your life and not be made to pay you for it, and perhaps it is. At least the wrongdoer does not get to claim that he should pay less because you’re not going to live so long now. Believe it or not, some defendants have tested this argument. Typically it doesn’t work. The bad guy doesn’t get extra credit for shortening your life.

The moral? Don’t guess at these kinds of answers. Your personal injury case is not an amusing pop quiz. Your family’s future depends on getting it right. Consult a qualified personal injury lawyer. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)