Loss of consortium damages are awarded to cover the physical and emotional loss a spouse experiences after their spouse is incapacitated or killed.
The term “consort” is a term that was traditionally used to refer to a person’s wife or husband. The phrase “consort with” often meant to associate with someone closely. Thus, “loss of consortium” is a legal term referring to the loss of association or companionship with a person, usually a spouse, an unmarried partner, or a close family member.
Legally speaking, “loss of consortium” refers to the damage sustained to your relationship because of an injury to you or to your spouse. In lawsuits for injuries suffered because of another person’s negligence or improper action, loss of consortium claims typically involves losing or decreasing a sexual relationship.
However, loss of consortium can also refer to other types of losses. These include losing the care, companionship, and affection of a loved one. They can also include damages for losing the ability to have children caused by personal injury.
Loss of consortium claims are not usually brought as independent lawsuits. Rather, if you sue someone for harming or killing your spouse, you will undoubtedly claim various damages. These often include claims for reimbursement for hospital and other medical costs, loss of income, etc. Loss of consortium is one of the many claims you may bring based on the same situation. Loss of consortium is commonly raised in cases such as car accident claims, negligence claims, and wrongful death cases.
Which Relationships Qualify for Loss of Consortium Claims?
Most loss of consortium claims occur when one spouse sues for injuries inflicted on the other spouse. Whether other relationships qualify for a loss of consortium claim varies by state, and each state has its own set of personal injury laws. Depending on the state, a loss of consortium claim can be brought in different situations and types of relationships, not just spouses.
These can include:
- Parental Consortium: Some states have recognized the loss of a relationship between a child and their parent or parents as appropriate for a loss of consortium claim. In other words, a child may sue for losing their parent’s care, companionship, and affection. This is because the loss of, or great injury to, a child’s parent can affect their development, welfare, and mental health for the rest of their life.
- Some state laws only grant loss of consortium damages where the parent died, while others recognize consortium damages where the parent was severely harmed or injured.
- Some states allow loss of consortium damages to only minor children; others grant consortium damages in suits by adult children.
- Unmarried Partners and Couples: Some states allow loss of consortium claims for unmarried persons. However, these types of damages can sometimes be difficult to obtain. You should consult a lawyer to tell you if you can receive loss of consortium damages for your partner in your state.
- Grandparents: Some state laws also recognize the loss of consortium rights of grandparents to their grandchildren in limited circumstances.
Again, each state will have different laws regarding specific circumstances. What is allowed in one area might not be allowed in another state. You may need to consult with an attorney to determine what the laws in your state say.
How Do You Prove Loss of Consortium?
When reviewing a loss of consortium claim, states review various factors to prove the claim. These include:
- The stability of the marriage or relationship. If a couple is in the process of divorcing, the surviving spouse is not in a position to bring a loss of consortium claim
- How much companionship the spouse actually received
- How long the relationship has lasted. Claims involving brief relationships may be successful, but the monetary damages awarded will be significantly higher if the couple has been together for a high number of years
- Each person’s individual life expectancy. If a person whose spouse passed away is relatively young, they will have lost a greater number of years with their husband or wife than someone older
- The nature and scope of the loss. For instance, a person in a coma might be seen as a greater loss than a person who sustained a broken bone
- How much their marriage will be impacted because of the injury to the spouse
Courts will consider these factors and others when calculating a damages award for loss of consortium.
What Is Loss of Support?
Loss of consortium damages include damages for loss of support. This refers to the monetary amount the injured spouse would have contributed to the family if they had not been killed or greatly injured. A jury or judge estimates the loss of support amount by considering two factors:
- The amount the injured spouse would have made overall
- The amount they would have contributed to the family income
For instance, an injured spouse known to give all their income to the household would receive a more significant award than someone who gave only a small percentage of their income to the family.
Other damages that can be included in a loss of consortium claim include “loss of services,” which means losing the value of the spouse’s tasks in and around the home. Services can range from taking care of pets to trimming the lawn and making household restorations.
Also admissible are claims for “loss of quality,” which refers to the loss of the emotional part of the marriage. It cannot be easily calculated in dollars and sense, but it includes:
- Sexual intercourse
- The ability to ask the other spouse for guidance
What are the Damages for Loss of Consortium Claims?
Damages awarded in a personal injury case can include:
- Economic damages: Damages that compensate a plaintiff for actual, measurable monetary loss, such as hospital and medical bills
- Non-economic damages: Damages that compensate for losses that are not easily quantifiable in terms of money
- Pain and suffering damages: Bodily or emotional harm caused by a personal injury. This is a type of non-economic damage
- Punitive damages: A monetary award to a plaintiff to punish a defendant’s bad behavior
Loss of consortium falls in the non-economic damages category.
Because the type of injury and losses involved can be unique, damages for loss of consortium will differ from case to case. As a result, there is no real general rule or formula for calculating the loss of consortium damages. It will usually require the assistance of a lawyer, who can help determine the amount of damages appropriate for the case.
It should also be noted that some states may impose a cap or limit on non-economic damages, including loss of consortium. Such laws are subject to frequent change, so you may need to check with a legal professional regarding the status of the laws in your area. Ultimately, it is also up to the judge presiding over the case to determine the actual dollar amount of the remedy.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Recover Damages for Loss of Consortium?
The laws regulating consortium loss can be very complex and will vary from state to state. If you believe you have a loss of consortium claim based on someone’s death that occurred because of someone else’s actions, an experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you understand your state’s laws.
If the person did not die but the situation still caused you a loss of consortium, a personal injury attorney can also represent you in court and can guide you through the overall legal process. An experienced personal injury lawyer near you can review the facts of your case, go over your rights and options, and represent you at hearings and in court.