Compensating Spouse and Family of the Injured: Loss of Consortium Claims

In a personal injury or wrongful death case, the injured person's family members may be able to recover for their own losses.

By , Attorney · Pepperdine Caruso School of Law
Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

When your loved one is injured or killed as a result of the carelessness ("negligence") or intentional wrongdoing of another person or entity, your entire family suffers. And while no amount of money can make your family whole again, most states allow certain close relatives to file "loss of consortium" claims to seek compensation for the disruption to their family.

In this article, we'll explain what loss of consortium means and how these types of claims work.

What is Loss of Consortium?

Loss of consortium is a type of personal injury claim typically brought by the spouse or close relative of an accident victim. The relative (the "plaintiff") sues the person who caused the harm (the "defendant") because the person injured or killed can no longer provide the same affection, companionship, comfort, or sexual relations.

Loss of consortium claims are most often filed when a loved one suffers a long-term injury or with a wrongful death claim.

How Are Loss of Consortium Damages Calculated?

Loss of consortium is a type of harm that falls under the category of general damages (also called "non-economic damages), meaning it's the type of loss for which money is only a rough substitute. Other examples of general damages include:

General damages are harder to calculate than economic damages, like medical bills, property damage, and lost income. Insurance adjusters and jurors have to use their discretion to put a dollar value on the loss of things like housework, sex, companionship, and support.

In a real case in Louisiana in 2015, a jury awarded the wife of a motorcyclist who was injured by a construction truck driver $150,000 in damages for loss of consortium. The wife took care of the injured motorcyclist for 13 months while he was confined to bed. The couple had no sex for the first four months after the injury and were no longer able to hunt, fish, or ride motorcycles together. The motorcyclist became moody and depressed after the accident and the couple no longer socialized as they did before the accident. The loss of consortium award was part of a damage award for the motorcyclist and his wife totaling $4.2 million. (Pennison v. Carrol, 167 So.3d 1065 (La. Ct. App. 2015).

Who Can Bring a Loss of Consortium Claim?

Spouses and Partners. In the past, only spouses could bring consortium claims, primarily for compensation for the loss of sexual relations and the ability to have children. Many states have relaxed this requirement to allow domestic partners to file loss of consortium claims. The rules vary from state to state.

Children and Parents. Some states allow a child or parent to file a loss of consortium claim. Loss of consortium in this context refers to the loss of the ability to share activities and enjoy life experiences with a parent or child.

Limitations on Loss of Consortium

Your loss of consortium claim may be limited by the laws in your state or the defendant's insurance policy limits. In some states, for example, you have to prove that you were legally married at the time of the injury to bring a loss of consortium claim.

On the insurance side, most liability policies have limits on the amount that you can recover for a single injury. You won't be able to recover more than the policy allows from the insurance company, though you may be able to go after the defendant's personal assets (if the defendant has any assets to after).

What to Consider Before Making a Loss of Consortium Claim

By bringing a loss of consortium claim, the private and intimate aspects of your marriage or relationship will be put in the spotlight. So, you should consider whether you are willing to withstand rigorous questioning, during a deposition or trial, by a defense attorney about your relationship.

For example, if your marriage suffered through any hardships or tribulations prior to the injury—such as infidelity, separations, or abuse—you'll likely have to talk about those problems in front of the judge and jury.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are thinking about bringing a loss of consortium claim, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer can answer your questions and give you an estimate of how much your claim might be worth.

Learn more about how to find the right personal injury lawyer. You can also connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.

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