The recombination processes in poly(p -phenylene vinylene) based polymer light-emitting diodes (PLEDs) are investigated. Photogenerated current measurements on PLED device structures reveal that next to the known Langevin recombination also trap-assisted recombination is an important recombination channel in PLEDs, which has not been considered until now. The dependence of the open-circuit voltage on light intensity enables us to determine the strength of this process. Numerical modeling of the current-voltage characteristics incorporating both Langevin and trap-assisted recombination yields a correct and consistent description of the PLED, without the traditional correction of the Langevin prefactor. At low bias voltage the trap-assisted recombination rate is found to be dominant over the free carrier recombination rate. © 2011 American Institute of Physics.