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Loss of Consortium
Definition, Examples & How to Prove it in 2024

Loss of consortium refers to the deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship due to an injury. It typically involves the loss of companionship, affection, comfort, or assistance that one spouse suffers as a result of the other spouse’s injury or death.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What are Loss of Consortium Damages?

According to Catania, loss of consortium is the legal term used to describe the deprivation of spousal benefits that result from a personal injury [1]. It encompasses the loss of companionship, affection, and support that a spouse experiences due to the injury of their partner. This loss is considered non-economic damage and can arise from various incidents such as car accidents, slip and falls, or medical malpractice.

Loss of consortium claims are available when an injury victim suffers a permanent or long-term injury. The claim belongs to a victim’s non-injured spouse and seeks compensation for their loss of companionship and support - Peter F. Catania stated.

How are Loss of Consortium Damages Calculated?

According to a Forbes publication from 2024, loss of consortium damages are considered non-economic damages [2]. That’s because they are intended to compensate for a non-monetary loss that is not easily measured.

By contrast, economic damages like lost wages and medical expenses are more straightforward to calculate, as they involve quantifiable costs such as medical bills and income lost from missed work.

The court considers several factors when determining the appropriate compensation for loss of consortium damages. These factors include:

  • The living arrangements of the injured individual and the family member(s) filing the claim for loss of consortium.
  • The duration and stability of the marriage in cases where the claim is made by a spouse.
  • The level of involvement the injured person had in child-rearing and managing the household.
  • The extent of care and companionship shared between the injured person and the family member(s) filing the claim.

There are many examples of loss of consortium. One example could involve a situation where a motorcycle accident leaves a husband paralyzed and mentally incapacitated. The wife could sue for loss of the husband’s companionship, society, support around the household, and ability to participate in an intimate marital relationship - Christy Bieber, J.D.

How Do You Prove Loss of Consortium Injuries?

According to Wheale Law, any evidence that demonstrates the marital relationship has altered, adapted, or changed as a result of a spouse’s personal injury can be used to prove loss of consortium damages [3].

In most cases, the evidence presented in the underlying personal injury case inherently suggests the presence of loss of consortium injuries.

The testimony of the injured spouse serves as a primary means of proving loss of consortium injuries. They can provide detailed accounts of how their marital relationship has been affected.

Witnesses who knew the couple before and after the injury can corroborate the changes in the injured spouse's physical and emotional state, further supporting the claim of loss of consortium.

Additionally, objective evidence can be used to demonstrate loss of consortium, including:

  • Medical records indicating physical injuries;
  • Therapy or counseling records;
  • Videos showing the impact of catastrophic injuries on daily life;
  • Costs for services to replace lost household assistance (such as maid services, yard care, childcare, etc.);
  • Mortality tables illustrate life expectancy and the long-term effects of the injury.

Examples of Loss of Consortium Awards

In some cases involving catastrophic injuries, higher awards for loss of consortium have been granted:

  • One case involved a woman who was awarded $1,800,000 for loss of consortium, which was linked to an $8,000,000 award for the pain and suffering of her husband, who lost his vision after nine surgeries. However, on appeal, the husband's award was reduced to $5,000,000, and the loss of consortium award was reduced to $750,000.
  • Another case resulted in a woman being awarded $3,000,000 for loss of services due to her husband's workplace fall, which left him paralyzed, incontinent, and sexually dysfunctional. However, an appeals court later reduced her award to $1,000,000.

In contrast, some cases involving non-catastrophic injuries have seen lower awards for loss of consortium:

  • An award of $85,000 was granted for loss of consortium in a case where the injured spouse received $1,400,000 for a shattered elbow.
  • According to Sweeney Law, another case resulted in an award of $100,000 for loss of consortium, connected to an injured spouse who received $1,050,000 for lower leg compartment syndrome, foot drop, and various injuries [4].

The awards for loss of consortium in cases of non-catastrophic injuries often reflect a significant difference from those involving catastrophic circumstances, highlighting the varied impact of injury severity on legal outcomes.

As these cases illustrate, the degree of physical impairment and life disruption experienced by the injured party can greatly influence both direct and consequential damages in personal injury lawsuits.

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References:

1. https://www.cataniaandcatania.com/personal-injury-resources/what-are-loss-of-consortium-damages/
2. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/personal-injury/loss-of-consortium/
3. https://sweeneylawfirm.com/content/loss-consortium
4. https://www.whealelaw.com/loss-of-consortium-faq