What Is Loss of Consortium? Examples and Settlement Amounts

August 23, 2022 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

What Is Loss of Consortium? Examples and Settlement Amounts

Loss of Consortium Settlements

Beyond the expenses of an injury lawsuit, there are sometimes other consequences of an injury that need to be compensated. The ripple effect of a serious injury can also warrant benefits for those close to the victim. If your spouse or domestic partner dies or is severely injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for loss of consortium benefits. 

What Is Loss of Consortium?

Loss of consortium is a type of compensatory damage that can be recovered from a personal injury lawsuit. Loss of consortium claims are usually filed by a spouse or family member of somebody who has been injured or killed because of another party’s negligent actions.

In short, this type of claim covers the loss of benefits previously provided by married life. This usually refers to a spouse’s reduced capacity for love, companionship, enjoyment in sexual relations, or ability to have children. In some states, consortium loss damages can be recovered by children or parents depending on what was lost, but not in California. 

Who Can Bring Loss of Consortium Claims in California?

In the state of California, loss of consortium deals explicitly with an individual’s spousal relationship. This means that only a spouse––or domestic partner––can pursue damages for loss of consortium. 

Even though the claimant is not the injured victim in cases of consortium loss, they still experience negative impacts. They may recover benefits as an indirect victim of the accident.

Common Accidents That Cause Loss of Consortium

Marriages and partnerships can be materially affected by any type of injury. If a spouse or partner can no longer perform their duties in a relationship due to physical or mental limitations, it can negatively affect the union. These types of injuries are commonly caused by the following types of accidents:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Automobile crashes
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Defective products

Intentional acts like assault, battery, and sexual crimes can also lead to loss of consortium claims due to physical and emotional trauma. 

Spinal Injury Loss of Consortium

From a physical standpoint, one of the most significant issues that could lead to compensation is paralysis. Aside from death, paralysis can be one of the most disabling injuries. Somebody who cannot use the bottom half of their body will likely not be able to work or perform the same way they used to. Even simple tasks like chores and carrying groceries can become much more difficult. 

Brain Injury Loss of Consortium

While loss of consortium benefits are often associated with physical debilitation, there are also injuries that can lead to a mental inability to provide. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are injuries that cause lasting mental problems and can rarely be fixed. Somebody’s personality may be permanently altered by a severe TBI, or their ability to remember things might decline. Either of these symptoms can make it difficult to provide a spouse with adequate attention.

The Difference Between Personal Injury and Wrongful Death

There are two main situations that can lead to spouses pursuing damages for loss of consortium.

  • Serious injuries: To recover loss of consortium damages in a personal injury case, you must prove that your marriage was materially affected by the victim’s injuries. Injuries that alter your spouse’s mental or physical abilities are eligible for compensation. This can include side effects of medications administered during treatment or recovery.
  • Wrongful death: The death of your spouse is one of the most drastic life changes a person can face. If you lose your spouse or partner because of another person’s negligent actions, you can recover loss of consortium damages as part of a wrongful death lawsuit.

How Is Loss of Consortium Calculated?

Loss of consortium is viewed as a “general” or “non-economic” damage. These damages do not have a concrete value and use money as a substitute for the value of non-monetary conditions. Some other non-economic damages include the following:

  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Distress
  • Loss of reputation
  • Loss of society
  • Humiliation
  • Mental anguish
  • Trauma

The values of these damages are usually determined by a judge. Because they are subjectively decided, it may be worthwhile to hire a legal professional who can ensure you get the full amount you deserve. Without a lawyer on your side, judges may not award compensation for all eligible damages. 

Here are some other benefits of married life that are eligible for compensation if lost:

  • Love
  • Affection
  • Sexual relationship
  • Protection
  • Support
  • Companionship

Many of these have physical and mental aspects that can be lost depending on the nature of an injury. 

Damages That Cannot Be Claimed

There are aspects of your partner’s support that you will not be able to recover through a loss of consortium claim. Here are some of the expenses that you cannot pursue under California law:

  • Lost income that occurs because of your partner’s injury or death
  • Income you lost because you took time away from work to take care of your spouse or partner
  • Costs of hiring service providers to cover for your spouse or partner (i.e. cleaning, cooking, etc.)
  • Any coverage for nursing and home care that you give to your spouse through their sickness or injury

You cannot recover these from a loss of consortium claim, but that does not mean that compensation cannot be recovered. These are simply economic losses that must be covered by a different type of suit. If your spouse is still alive, they can pursue these damages as part of a personal injury lawsuit. If your spouse is deceased, you can pursue these damages as part of a more comprehensive wrongful death lawsuit. 

Value of Loss of Consortium Damages

The amount of money that you can recover from a loss of consortium claim technically has no cap. Assuming the benefits are reasonably proportionate to the negligence of the defendant and the lost value of the deceased, the damages can be high. In many situations, however, there is a cap placed on the total value of non-economic damages in a claim.

For example, California has a law that limits non-economic damages to $250,000 in medical malpractice cases. If your spouse lost physical or mental competence after a medical negligence accident, you will not be able to recover more than a quarter of a million dollars for damages like loss of consortium.

How to Prove Loss of Consortium 

To receive loss of consortium benefits, you must provide the court with certain evidence proving that:

  • Your marriage with your spouse was legal and valid
  • Your spouse was wrongfully injured by another party
  • You sustained a loss of consortium
  • The loss of consortium was directly linked to the injuries sustained from the guilty party

It is also important to show the court that your marriage was healthy preceding the time of the accident. If you were in a troubled relationship in which you did not receive much support from your spouse, you may have a difficult time recovering compensation for their injuries. Statements from witnesses in your life that can attest to your relationship will be essential in proving your losses.

Filing a Loss of Consortium Claim in California

If an injury to your partner has caused some form of loss in your relationship, you can file a loss of consortium claim for benefits. This is not to be confused with the personal injury case filed by the plaintiff. 

If your spouse is injured by another’s negligence and survives, they may pursue damages for their own losses. You may file a separate claim to pursue damages by the liable party that compensate you for loss of consortium. If your spouse loses their personal injury case, you will be less likely to recover benefits because the court already ruled in the defendant’s favor. 

If your spouse dies as a result of another’s negligence, you can recover loss of consortium damages as part of a wrongful death lawsuit. 

In any event, if you believe that you no longer receive the same support, availability, or attention from your spouse or domestic partner due to an injury they sustained, you may want to hire a legal professional.

Hire a Bakersfield Injury Attorney

Here at Chain | Cohn | Clark, we have a specialized team of lawyers to help you recover non-economic damages from personal injury cases. Our California personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers have years of training and up-to-date technology at their disposal that can be used to solidify your case. 

Defendants may attempt to prove that they were not at fault for your spouse’s injuries. Furthermore, they may argue that your relationship was not healthy enough to warrant benefits. Even when there are issues in a marriage, there is still a level of support within the union. Don’t let the guilty party take advantage of your inexperience, contact our firm to get the compensation you deserve.