If your husband or wife suffered a severe, debilitating or disabling injury, you will probably lose certain marital benefits that you've enjoyed since the onset of your marriage. Some of those benefits are readily apparent, like if your spouse regularly cooked your dinners and performed other household chores. Other benefits may not be apparent, like the loss of society and companionship.
In legal terms, when a spouse is injured - and the non-injured spouse suffers the loss of marital benefits - lawyers refer to it as the loss of consortium. An uninjured spouse can incorporate his or her loss of consortium claims into the injured spouse's personal injury claims in many cases.
What does loss of consortium mean exactly?
The term "consort" traditionally referred to an individual's husband or wife. To consort with someone means that you are associating with that person. As such, loss of consortium means that you have lost specific benefits derived from your association with another person.
When claiming loss of consortium, the plaintiff must try to quantify - or assign a monetary value - to abstract concepts such as friendship, affection and companionship. Nevertheless, the pain and hardship associated with loss of consortium are real, and courts will recognize the validity of such claims in many circumstances.
What do courts look at when considering loss of consortium?
Monetary damages awarded for loss of consortium may relate to: the loss of sexual relations, the loss of love and the loss of more quantifiable spousal services like assistance with household chores, cooking, laundry, childcare, home maintenance, cleaning and more.
During the valuation process, courts will consider various factors like the stability of one's marriage, life expectancies of the spouses and the extent to which various marital benefits were lost. As for the extent of the losses, we can look at a couple of examples. A husband who needs to be in crutches for a couple weeks doesn't represent a significant loss of consortium, and such a claim would probably fail. On the other hand, a husband who is in a long-term coma, would represent an extensive loss of consortium.
Get legal help with your loss of consortium claim
Every loss of consortium claim is different. Sometimes, spouses may be able to include such a claim in a personal injury lawsuit, and sometimes they cannot. Therefore, it's important to discuss the possibility with your personal injury lawyer in detail before you decide to incorporate a loss of consortium claim into a civil lawsuit.