Loss of use is a legal term that describes an injury that has permanent consequences for the victim. A full loss of use injury may be an accident that resulted in a severed limb or a completely inoperable condition such as blindness or loss of smell. Partial loss of use cases are normally applied to an accident where a victim has a permanent injury that prevents him or her from doing certain activities as well as they used to. In either situation, loss of use is part of a larger formula that is used to determine settlement amounts in injury cases.
The term "loss of use" was created to fill a void that existed between lawyers and insurance companies. In the case of a vehicular accident, for example, a victim could sustain numerous injuries that would take various times to heal. It was relatively easy for insurers to base a formula on time lost from work and medical expenses, but when the victim had lasting injuries, it became more difficult. Loss of use measures a percentage-based estimation of the injury so that fair compensation could be sought.
For example, in the event of back or spinal damage, the victim would likely experience a loss of mobility for the rest of his life. That does not mean that he cannot move his back at all or continue to work; the term only indicates that the injury caused measurable complications that the victim can expect. If the loss was a relatively low percentage, then it is possible for the person to continue his daily life without too many changes. A high loss of use would indicate that the individual would likely have severe problems due to the injury.
Whenever a person is considered to have a full loss of use, it means that he will never be able to use that body part again. This still does not naturally imply that the victim is permanently disabled; there are plenty of productive workers who have experienced a full loss of use yet overcome their handicap. Less severe cases may refer to a loss of a finger or a ruptured spleen, while more serious incidents could include the victim losing a leg or his hearing.
Each injury is handled individually and there is no preset value within loss of use cases. The formula merely exists to present involved parties with a numerical value on the damages suffered, and physicians may have conflicting opinions on what the actual percentage is. A victim's doctor often places a higher value on the injuries, while an insurance company's physician may be less critical. These two percentages are often factored together to find a middle ground for a settlement offer, which is why both sides sometimes overstate their findings.