During a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit in California, you may hear the phrase “loss of consortium.” These are damages a spouse or other family members could recover after the death of or injury to a loved one. The courts may award loss of consortium damages to a spouse or family member if someone loses the ability to provide services/support he or she provided prior to the accident. Learn about loss of consortium in California to see if you may qualify.
What Does Loss of Consortium Include?
Loss of consortium refers to the non-economic, intangible, or “general” damages a loved one may experience from a life cut short or a serious injury. Typically, the courts reserve loss of consortium damages for wrongful death or “severe and enduring” injuries. What loss of consortium includes depends on the individual in question and the extent of injury. Loss of consortium damages typically fall into three main categories:
Loss of services
“Services” can encompass household services and chores such as cleaning, cooking, and making repairs. It can include anything from taking care of pets to mowing the lawn. If a serious injury renders a person incapable of completing household services he or she once performed, the court will compensate the spouse and sometimes the children for having to take over these duties.
Loss of support
This typically involves loss of financial support, such as financial contributions from a career. It is similar to the plaintiff’s award for lost wages, but it is a separate amount the courts award to a spouse or child. The courts will look at not only how much the injured person would have brought home but also how he/she would have spent this money when determining this compensation.
Loss of quality in the relationship
This can include the loss of love, affection, comfort, intimacy, companionship, society, sexual relations, and ability to have children that stem from a personal injury or death. The courts will consider the state of the relationship before and after the accident to calculate these damages. These damages encompass emotional issues couples prize highly in relationships that are difficult to quantify.
The losses the courts will award compensation for will vary based on the relationship between the family member and the injured/deceased party. Some plaintiffs may qualify for certain types of “loss of consortium” damages, while others will not. California state laws will help determine how much these losses may amount to, as well as who is eligible to obtain them in a settlement or lawsuit. In California, a valid marriage license at the time of the accident automatically makes a spouse a contender for loss of consortium damages.
How Do the Courts Calculate Loss of Consortium?
Economic damages are simple to quantify. There are bills, receipts, and other documentations of specific amounts. Loss of consortium and other non-economic damages are more difficult to valuate. These amounts are largely up to the judge or jury’s discretion. The courts may decide amongst a few different methods to calculate these types of losses. Like other damages, if a claim involves catastrophic injuries, permanent disabilities, or death, the court will award greater compensation. A good attorney can help clients maximize loss of consortium damages by displaying just how much the injury or death has impacted a surviving spouse or child.