Loss of Consortium: Spousal Damages
When a person is injured, the injury generally has consequences beyond that person. Other people, such as a spouse, may also be affected by a serious injury. Fortunately, in California, a person’s loss resulting from a spouse’s injury is compensable. The uninjured spouse can sue for loss of consortium, which means the loss of the normal marital relationship.Who Can Sue
Only a spouse or registered domestic partner can sue for loss of consortium in California. Unmarried cohabitants and other romantic partners are not entitled to any compensation for their losses. This is true even if the parties were engaged at the time of the injury.
Additionally, parents and children may not sue. The loss of a parent-child relationship is not compensable through a loss of consortium claim. However, these other losses may be compensable under other theories of recovery.Compensable Losses
Traditionally, loss of consortium meant only the loss of the ability to have sexual relations and children. But in recent decades, the definition has expanded. Today, a spouse suing for loss of consortium can recover compensation for:
- The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations, or the ability to have children;
- The loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support; and
- The loss of services, including a spouse’s assistance in running the home.
Spouses may recover for loss of consortium even if the loss is not total. They may also be compensated for a diminution of their rights to consortium.Calculating Damages
Loss of consortium falls under the category of noneconomic damages. This means that the loss is intangible, and cannot be proven through documentation like receipts and bills. Instead, the jury must come up with an appropriate dollar amount. There is no standardized formula for calculating the loss in a consortium case. Instead, the jury is to award a reasonable amount of compensation.
Because of the nature of the harm, spouses in loss of consortium cases will be asked about their marriages prior to the accident. Courts may consider the stability of the marriage, the degree to which the benefits of the marriage were lost, and each spouse’s life expectancy.
Loss of consortium does not include any recovery for financial assistance that the uninjured spouse has provided. Uninjured spouses will also not be compensated for services they have rendered, such as nursing the injured spouse. Further, an uninjured spouse who has taken time off work to care for the injured party will not receive compensation for any loss of earnings during that time. This is because all these things are otherwise compensable.
A loss of consortium recovery will be proportionally reduced if the injured spouse was contributorily negligent. This means that if the injured spouse’s negligence was a partial cause of the accident, then the other spouse’s recovery for loss of consortium will be reduced correspondingly.
If you or your spouse has been injured because of someone else’s actions, it is important to contact an experienced attorney who can help you recover the full value of your damages. Please contact the skilled San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free consultation today at (408) 289-1417.Sources
- Elden v. Sheldon (1988) 46 Cal.3d 267 , 758 P.2d 582; 250 Cal.Rptr. 254
- JENNIFER LEDGER, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. RONALD WILLIAM TIPPITT, Defendant and Respondent.
- HARRY CARLSON, Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Respondent, v. ARNOLD WALD et al., Defendants, Cross-complainants and Appellants.
- MARY ANNE RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION et al., Defendants and Respondents.