One day, you get a call from a hospital informing you that your spouse was in a major car accident. You get to the hospital to find your injured spouse in a coma after suffering a brain injury. Besides feeling devastated, you're suffering from the loss of your spouse's support and care. If the other driver was negligent, you may be able to receive compensation for the loss of companionship and affection.
What Is Loss of Consortium?
Unlike other types of car accident claims, loss of consortium is brought by a close family member of the accident victim (a spouse, parent, or child). Although most loss of consortium cases involve a spouse of the injured party, they can also apply to a relationship between parents and children in some cases.
Loss of consortium refers to the deprivation of the benefits of married life or parenting, such as the ability to show affection after an accident or injury. The injured party must have sustained serious injuries or died as a result of a car accident.
If the injured party can no longer provide the same love, affection, intimacy, or companionship, the injury victim's spouse, child, or parent can recover damages for the loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium can also be called "loss of affection" or "loss of companionship." For parents and children, claims can include the loss of parental care. For spouses, loss of consortium also includes deprivation of their sexual relationship.
How To Prove Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a form of non-economic damages (a component of general damages), which refers to intangible damages that are difficult to calculate in monetary values. There's no clear rule for calculating non-economic damages. However, if the spouse of a car accident victim is claiming loss of consortium, the court will likely consider the following factors:
- Whether the marriage involved a stable, loving relationship
- The spouses' living arrangements
- How much care and companionship the spouse received
- The spouses' individual life expectancies
Here's a sample scenario:
While Adam was driving home from work, he was hit by a truck. Bob was driving the truck, and the accident was caused by Bob's carelessness. As a result, Adam fractured his spine. Adam and Carol are newlyweds, and they were planning to have multiple children. Adam and Carol's sexual relationship and their plan to have kids have been affected by the accident.
Adam can no longer help Carol with household chores, which was his job while Carol went to work. Adam can no longer provide the same love, affection, companionship, and sexual intimacy that he did before the accident. In this situation, Adam may be able to recover damages for his fractured spine from Bob's insurance company. Carol could claim damages for the loss of consortium.
Wrongful Death and Loss of Consortium
In the context of a wrongful death claim, loss of consortium also applies. If a loved one is killed due to the negligence of another, the surviving spouse or family members, if appointed the estate's personal representative, can bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
In these cases, the damages can include economic damages, such as lost wages and funeral expenses. Non-economic damages, like loss of love and companionship, can also be recovered.
Wrongful death claims can be complex and emotionally draining. Having an experienced personal injury attorney with a background in wrongful death claims is extremely beneficial.
A personal injury lawyer can:
- Collect evidence
- Negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to make sure you and your family get the loss of consortium damages you deserve
Loss of Consortium in Domestic Partnerships vs. Marriage
Historically, loss of consortium claims have been limited to legally married couples. But as social norms have evolved, more states have started to recognize these claims in the context of domestic partnerships as well.
Keep in mind, though, the factors considered for loss of consortium still apply, such as:
- The stability of the relationship
- Living arrangements
The uninjured spouse or domestic partner must provide compelling evidence of these factors to substantiate their claim.
Handling of Medical Bills in Personal Injury Claims
Medical bills arising from your spouse's severe injury due to a car accident can be overwhelming. These expenses are a significant component of a personal injury claim.
The negligent driver's insurance company is typically responsible for paying the medical bills as part of the damages in a personal injury claim. But they are usually paid out as a lump sum once the claim has been settled, not on an ongoing basis.
In the meantime, your health insurance may cover these costs. But they will likely seek reimbursement once a settlement or judgment has been reached in your favor.
That's why you should keep detailed records of all:
- Medical treatments
- Rehabilitation costs
- Other related expenses
- A personal injury attorney can:
- Guide you through this process
- Ensure that all costs are adequately accounted for in your claim
- Negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf
The goal is not only to recover damages for the pain and suffering caused by the loss of consortium but also to secure compensation that covers all the medical bills associated with your spouse's injury.
Limitations on Loss of Consortium
Some states impose damages caps, which are limits on the amount of damages you can recover. Several states impose damages caps on non-economic damages, including the loss of consortium.
For example, Ohio limits non-economic damages to the greater of $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages, but not to exceed $350,000, unless there is:
- Permanent and substantial physical deformity
- Loss of use of a limb
- Loss of a bodily organ system or permanent physical functional injury that permanently prevents the injured person from being able to care for themselves and perform life-sustaining activities independently
Thus, if your spouse was injured in a car accident and you did not sustain any personal injuries or economic damages yourself, you generally cannot recover more than $250,000 for the loss of consortium in Ohio.
Check your state's laws on damages caps, statutes of limitations, and rules of evidence to ensure there's no limitation preventing you from bringing a loss of consortium claim.
Get Professional Legal Advice for Your Loss of Consortium Claim
Claims for loss of consortium will differ from case to case. It's important to get professional help from someone who has worked on these types of cases in the past and understands how to present your claim in the most favorable light. If your loved one has been injured in a car accident, contact a motor vehicle accident attorney at a reputable law office for help with a personal injury lawsuit.