Loss of consortium is a type of damages claim that can be filed by family members of a person injured or killed by the wrongful acts of others. In the 1600s, damages from loss of consortium were awarded only to a husband whose wife was injured. At the time, because a wife was considered a chattel of the husband, the wife could not make the same argument when her husband was injured. However, such restriction does not exist these days and loss of consortium claim can be made by either spouse. Moreover, depending on the jurisdiction one is in, such a claim may be available to his/her parent or child in some instances.
Why Loss of Consortiums?
Concisely, loss of consortium means deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship because of the injury caused by a person. This can more colloquially be regarded as a loss of affection including, yes, that kind of affection. In most cases, one who suffered direct injury from a wrongdoer is usually the one who is eligible to make tort claims against that wrongdoer. What sets the loss of consortium theory apart from many tort claims is that someone who was not injured by the person can sue the wrongdoer for damages suffered due to the wrongdoer’s injury toward his spouse (child or parent in some instances). This means that the claim by the deprived spouse is separate and distinct from that of the injured spouse. Thus, the deprived spouse’s ability to argue for loss of consortium will remain uninterrupted regardless of the injured spouse’s decision to go forward or settle as to his/her own claim for damages. As a practical matter, the claims are often brought together since the underlying facts are identical.
Proving Loss of Consortium
Damages in loss of consortium cases are not tangible or economical; they are referred to as non-economic damages or general damages. They are thus difficult to calculate. However, there are roughly three kinds of damages that should be considered in determining a right amount of award to the injured party’s spouse (or other family members in some cases):
(1) Loss of services – this damage refers to the reasonable value of the household and other related work the injured spouse had done. The work can include doing the dishes or laundries, making repairs of household items, or mowing the lawn of his/her house.
(2) Loss of support – this damage refers to the value of financial support the injured spouse would have brought to the family if her/his injury did not take place. The person’s lost wages are considered a separate award for the injured spouse.
(3) Loss of companionship – this damage usually refers to the non-monetary value that marriage brings. It typically includes emotional elements such as love, companionship, and affection. It can also include the values of the injured spouse’s ability to listen and give meaningful advice to the other spouse or even his/her ability to engage in sexual intercourse with the other.
A court will investigate the severity and types of losses experienced by the spouse (or other family members in some cases) of the injured person in calculating the damages. Some factors noted below may be considered in the calculation:
- The strength of relationship; whether there is an evidence of loving relationship in the union
- Living arrangement; whether the spouses are living together prior to the accident or injury
- The degree of companionship the spouse enjoyed before the loss
Due to the inherent difficulty in measuring damages for loss of consortium claim, it would be in one’s best interest to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney to evaluate the merits of his/her claim. A competent attorney from our team at JuriSentinel knows how to demonstrate how a family member has suffered due to the beloved one’s injury or death and can help the family member make a strong argument against any party that caused the injury.