What Is Loss of Consortium?

April 2, 2024 | Ed Bernstein
What Is Loss of Consortium?

Loss of consortium is the legal term for damage to a family relationship due to an injury. In personal injury lawsuits, plaintiffs can sue to recover damages for loss of consortium in addition to other economic and noneconomic damages related to their injuries. If you've suffered injuries due to negligence and your relationship with your spouse or partner has suffered, your partner could be eligible to recover damages for loss of consortium.

Meeting with a personal injury attorney to discuss your case is in your best interest. Until you have the chance, we provide more information about loss of consortium, including specifics about what it means, who qualifies for it, and how lawyers calculate it for personal injury claims.

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Defining Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium broadly refers to damage to a relationship after an injury. In most cases, loss of consortium claims are associated with married couples. Often, people assume that loss of consortium only includes intimate relations between spouses or partners. However, damage to a relationship can come in multiple forms. Here is a broad overview of different types of loss that typically qualify as loss of consortium.

Loss of Physical Intimate Relations

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Severe injuries impact relationships inside the bedroom physically and emotionally. Sometimes people suffer from permanent loss of sexual function. This could be due to paralyzation or nerve damage that impacts people's sex organs. Other times, physical struggles with sexual function disappear as victims recover from their injuries. However, barriers to sexual intimacy aren't always physical.

The emotional and financial stress of an injury can impact sex drive and performance. Finally, injuries can create conditions that force people to take prescription medication. Some medications impact a person's ability or desire to engage in sexual activity. In some cases, the loss of intimate relations is temporary. Other times, injured victims and their partners suffer from a permanent loss of intimate relations, which often provides grounds to sue for loss of consortium.

Loss of Companionship

Injuries sometimes make it difficult for a victim of negligence to provide their partner the same level of companionship as they once did. Companionship loosely refers to the emotional support someone provides their partner. Companionship includes conversation and discussion, but it also includes simply being near someone. Various injuries can impact whether someone can provide companionship to their partner.

Head and brain injuries can impair speaking and other cognitive functions, making them a major cause of companionship loss.

Depending on the type and severity of the injuries, couples might be unable to converse or engage in other activities, such as going for walks, binge-watching Netflix together, or traveling, among other things.

Regardless of the exact activities, victims of negligence can sue for loss of consortium when their injuries impact companionship with their partner.

Loss of Services

Many couples share household chores and errands. Severe injuries make it impossible for them to contribute to the household in the same way they did before suffering injuries.

In turn, the non-injured partner suffers a loss of services. Loss of services can add financial stress to a relationship because couples might need additional help.

For example, if a person suffers severe injuries in a car accident, they might lose the ability to help with:

  • Cooking and cleaning
  • Yardwork
  • Pool maintenance
  • Childcare or shuttling kids to and from school and extracurricular activities

Loss of services falls under the umbrella of loss of consortium because it makes it difficult or impossible for both partners in a relationship to work together to take care of their home and children.

Loss of Support

One partner frequently earns more money than the other in a relationship. Sometimes both partners contribute roughly equal amounts to the household income.

If the partner who suffers injury contributes a significant portion or brings in all the income for the household, the incapacity to work can devastate the family. If someone cannot work, they cannot continue to support their family.

Sometimes, a loss of support ends after someone recovers from their injuries. In other cases, victims of negligence never recover from their injuries, making the loss of support permanent.

If a personal injury interrupts a marriage, the non-injured spouse can bring a loss of consortium claim against the responsible party. The laws that govern loss of consortium claims vary across states. Sometimes children and parents can bring a loss of consortium claim, but these claims are typically reserved for spouses. Many states have made laws to extend the same rights to domestic partners regarding bringing a loss of consortium claim.

In most states, a loss of consortium claim accompanies the injured spouse's personal injury claim. The injured person must prove their case for their spouse to recover compensation for loss of consortium. The personal injury action comes first. If a court does not rule in favor of the plaintiff on the personal injury claim, the loss of consortium claim also fails.

Hiring a personal injury lawyer to help prove the elements of the personal injury claim and an accompanying loss of consortium claim is the best way to increase your chances of receiving maximum compensation for losses related to you or your spouse's injuries.

Elements of a Loss of Consortium Claim

Most personal injury claims are based on some form of negligence. Winning a case or successfully negotiating a settlement requires plaintiffs to prove negligence. Recovering compensation for loss of consortium requires proving additional items.

They include:

  • Proving a lawful marriage or domestic partnership. The marriage or partnership had to be in place when the injury occurred.
  • Proving the spouse has a valid personal injury claim. The spouse must have a legitimate personal injury claim, whether from a traffic accident, defective product accident, or another situation.
  • Proving a change in the relationship. Plaintiffs must show that loss of consortium exists in one or more forms, including a loss of intimate relations, companionship, service, and support.
  • Proving the connection of the loss of consortium to the spouse's or partner's injury. Winning the loss of consortium part of a personal injury claim requires showing that the victim's injuries caused a change in the marriage or domestic partnership.

Events That Lead to Loss of Consortium Claims

Various scenarios that lead to personal injury claims can also lead to an accompanying loss of consortium claims.

Examples of events that cause injuries that might impact a marriage or domestic partnership include:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Defective product accidents
  • Construction site accidents
  • Workplace accidents

Your attorney can review the details of the event that led to your injuries and damage to your relationship to advise you on the best course of action for your situation.

If you've tragically lost your partner due to fatal injuries, you could receive compensation for loss of consortium and other damages if you bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can evaluate your eligibility to recover damages and which damages apply if you have a valid claim.

How Courts Calculate Loss of Consortium Damages?

Your lawyer can estimate what you might receive for loss of consortium damages. However, if your case goes to trial, it's ultimately up to the judge and jury to decide how much to award. The court weighs several factors as it evaluates a loss of consortium claim.

These things could affect whether you win your claim and the amount you receive:

  • A couple's ability to engage in sexual relations
  • The injured spouse's ability to help with child-rearing and childcare
  • The couple's ability to conceive if they want children
  • The injured spouse's ability to offer companionship and support
  • The injured spouse's ability to help maintain the household
  • The injured spouse's ability to express love and emotion

As you speak with your attorney, you must share details so they can accurately evaluate your claim. Whether during a deposition or in a formal courtroom, you can expect to answer deeply personal questions about your life at home, in your bedroom, and with your domestic partner or spouse.

Fighting the Insurance Company for Noneconomic Damages After Injury

If loss of consortium exists, the injured partner likely has suffered a severe or permanent injury. It's also likely an insurance company will be involved.

Depending on the situation, an auto, homeowners, or business insurance provider could be a party to a personal injury lawsuit.

Insurance companies do not like to pay large claims, so they will use every strategy to avoid financial liability for their policyholder.

It's difficult for insurance companies to dispute economic damages. Lawyers on both sides and insurance companies can point to medical bills, payroll information, and other receipts to evaluate and place a value on damages.

Disputes over economic damages are typically all or nothing. Insurance companies might argue that specific medical treatments weren't necessary or that a preexisting condition led to injuries, so their policyholder shouldn't be liable.

The story changes with noneconomic damages like loss of consortium. Noneconomic damages don't correlate with a bill or receipt, making them difficult to quantify.

Insurance policy limits and the extent of the damage to a relationship inform the amount an insurance company might offer for a settlement or a court might award in a verdict.

Regardless of the situation, the insurance company and the legal defense team will attempt to minimize losses and shift blame wherever possible.

Preserving the Value of a Loss of Consortium Claim

If you or your partner has a valid personal injury claim, there are two specific things you can do to help your lawyer advocate for you and give you the best chance of receiving compensation for loss of consortium.

Follow Your Treatment Plan

Insurance companies often try to downplay injuries caused by their negligent policyholders. This is especially common when they cannot dispute liability.

Instead, they try to reduce the amount they have to pay on behalf of their policyholder by arguing injuries aren't as severe as the victim claims.

If you don't attend medical appointments and follow the medical treatment plan you agreed to with your doctor, you give the insurance company ammunition to argue your injuries are worse because you aren't following the doctor's orders.

This extends to your partner. The insurance company can argue that damage to a relationship wouldn't have happened or been as bad had you followed your treatment plan.

To preserve the value of your claim, you must attend all follow-up visits, physical therapy appointments, and other specialist appointments.

Keep a Daily Journal

It's sometimes difficult to convey the struggles your relationship and family members have faced due to injuries.

The best way to give your lawyer and the other side the information that supports the loss of consortium is to keep a daily journal.

Both you and your spouse should record the physical and emotional challenges you face because of one person's injuries.

This may require uncomfortable discussions of intimate activities or lack thereof. However, when you document your struggles, facing these personal questions in a legal setting, such as a deposition or a courtroom, is much easier.

Examples of things to include in your journal about your marriage or partnership include:

  • Changes in the amount of sexual activity you and your partner engage in
  • Issues with sexual performance
  • Changes in sex drive or libido
  • Feelings of loneliness, anger, or other negative emotions
  • Instances when the injured partner cannot help with household chores or maintenance
  • Feeling overwhelmed because a spouse cannot help
  • Arguments about money, medical treatment, or other things related to injuries

If in doubt, always write it down. Giving your lawyer too much information is far better than not enough.

Your personal injury law firm in Las Vegas can help you sort through your journal and use the entries that help support the injury claim and the claim for loss of consortium.

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Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.