How does life expectancy affect birth injury claims?

The unfortunate medical reality is that many children who have suffered catastrophic life altering injuries at birth may have a reduced life expectancy as compared to the average otherwise healthy child. As part of any birth injury claim, your lawyer may need to engage an expert or experts to provide an opinion on whether there is a compromised or reduced life expectancy as a result of the injuries, and to provide an opinion as to what the likely life expectancy is for the injured child. The opinion of such an expert is simply that, an opinion that is often based upon research, medicine and science that attempts to estimate the child’s life expectancy (Life Care Plan). The opinion does not mean with certainty that the child will only live for the period predicted. It is possible that the child could live longer than the life expectancy estimated, or that the child could pass away earlier if other events or poor health intervene. The opinion of the expert is usually informed by the medical circumstances of the child and other collateral evidence related to the child’s well-being and function.

An opinion on life expectancy is usually required in birth injury claims because it is an important component in quantifying the compensation being sought. Several categories of compensation involve projecting losses into the future over the life of the injured child.

For instance, future care costs are intended to provide compensation to allow for the proper care of the child over the course of his or her life. This involves identifying the various supports, services, therapies and equipment that will likely be required by the child over the course of his or her lifetime. Therefore, to properly assess and quantify this category of damages, the estimated life expectancy of the child needs to be part of the calculation.

As a further example, where there is a claim for future loss of income because the child’s injuries are significant enough to impair his or her ability to have gainful employment as an adult, the calculation for such a loss will also involve the consideration and use of the life expectancy opinion. This assessment and quantification can involve an area of the law known as the “lost years” calculation.

As well, life expectancy can arguably influence other heads of damages that are sought on a birth injury claim, such as non-pecuniary damages.

As such, while it is sometimes difficult for a parent to hear that a child’s life expectancy may be compromised because of the injuries suffered, it is a necessary and important expert opinion to be sought on a birth injury claim, as it becomes a significant component for the calculation of the losses and damages typically claimed.