What is Loss of Consortium?

couple experiencing marital troubles as an example of loss of consortium

When it comes to personal injury, many people will only consider the person directly involved in the accident. The negligence of another, however, can also have a profound impact on loved ones, especially the spouse. “Loss of consortium” is often a consideration in wrongful death cases, but it can apply to personal injury claims as well. It is a legal premise meant to account for the suffering a spouse may endure after a partner is severely injured. 

Loss of Consortium Definition

Following a bad accident, the road to recovery from personal injury can be painful physically and emotionally. The injured person’s  life may change abruptly due to new limitations on physical and/or mental capabilities. 

This change affects everyone involved, but it can be especially difficult for the spouse, whose quality of life may also be affected. Financial burden, caregiving, and emotional turmoil can take a toll on a relationship. Loss of consortium is a type of claim that compensates the spouse for a disruption or decline in their marriage as a result of an injury caused by the negligence of another. It describes the loss of companionship, comfort, sexual relations, and other aspects deemed important to a loving partnership.   

As you may expect, loss of consortium encompasses a wide array of scenarios. As a non-economic damage, it can be difficult to quantify. A qualified personal injury attorney can help couples file this claim in conjunction with the victim’s personal injury case.   

 

Examples of Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium can be highly nuanced, since it applies to the inner workings of a specific relationship. For this reason, there are many, many examples of what might constitute loss of consortium for spouse. 

 

But let’s say, for example, a woman and her spouse were accustomed to taking evening walks together after work. It was an important time of day for them when they could reconnect, discuss their day, and make plans. 

 

One day, the woman was involved in a bad car accident that left her unable to walk. Her spouse was deeply affected by this and became withdrawn due to the sudden loss of an important communication outlet. This is a loss of companionship, which falls under loss of consortium (see below). 

Again, the circumstances involved in a loss of consortium claim will vary significantly from case to case. In general, however, loss of consortium falls into the following categories:

Loss of Intimate Relations

Many spouses grieve the loss of intimacy following a bad injury. Their partners may be unable to or uninterested in having sexual contact. This can have a negative impact on relationships that once included such contact. Furthermore, it can derail plans that were in place to start or expand a family. 

Loss of Service

Partnerships entail a fairly equal burden of the household chores, childcare, and other tasks important to maintaining a home and supporting a family. In many cases, injuries leave the victim unable to contribute in this way. Not only are they unable to help as they used to, they may now require assistance themselves. This can place significant strain on a spouse and the relationship. 

Loss of Companionship

The psychological process following a catastrophic event, such as a bad car crash, is complicated. Victims who were once strong, contributing members of the family may find their place and value called into question. Likewise, their spouses may become resentful of having to shoulder additional financial and domestic responsibilities. Whatever the reason, it is not uncommon for couples to lose the care and affection they once had for one another when circumstances have changed so drastically. 

Who Can File for Loss of Consortium?

In order to pursue damages for loss of consortium, you must establish the following:

  1. Your partner suffered an injury or died as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
  2. You and the injured person were either legally married or had a domestic partnership that can be proven, when they suffered the injury.
  3. You suffered a loss as a result of your partner’s injury or wrongful death.
  4. The defendant’s negligent actions directly affected your loss of consortium

In personal injury cases, loss of consortium claims award damages for pain and suffering only. A spouse filing for loss of consortium cannot claim damages for medical bills, lost wages, or other economic damages, since the injured partner will already be pursuing this type of compensation in his or her own personal injury case. 

In the case of wrongful death, however, economic damages will be considered since the deceased is unable to file a claim for themselves.

Proving Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is a type of non-economic damage. These damages are more difficult to quantify, with no direct paper trail or price tag to assign them value. Nevertheless, non-economic damages can and will be awarded to parties that can offer sufficient evidence and who meet the requirements for a pain and suffering claim. 

You will need to prove that your marriage or relationship suffered as a direct result of injuries that were the fault of someone else. Details of your personal relationship may be scrutinized in order to determine the legitimacy of your claim.  Among other things, the following factors may be considered:

  • The quality of the injured partner’s services and companionship prior to the accident.
  • The interest the injured partner showed in the domestic and social life of the other partner and the family.
  • The character and temperament of both partners.
  • The length of marriage and life expectancy of the injured partner.
  • The injured partner’s previous duties or chores around the house.
  • The sexual relationship between the partners.
  • The time required to care for the injured partner.

Loss of Consortium Statute of Limitations in Colorado

A statute of limitations defines the limited period during which you can bring your legal claim to court. In Colorado, because your loss of consortium claim hinges on either a personal injury or wrongful death claim, the same statute of limitations will apply.

In the context of personal injury claims, you have two years from the date of the accident. This increases to three years if the injuries were caused by a motor vehicle accident, and four years following a hit and run. 

Personal Injury Lawyer for Loss of Companionship

Personal injury cases can take a severe emotional and physical toll. At The Roth Group, we understand this extends to everyone involved, especially the spouse. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, please call our office or go online today to schedule a free consultation.

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Heather Kleinman