Loss of consortium is a term in tort law that describes loss due to the wrongful death or injury of a loved one. While it’s one type of personal injury case, it tends to be a standalone claim made against negligent or intentional wrongs that deprive someone of their relationship with the injured person.
Torts cover a wide range of laws and jurisdictions that can be tedious to track without good practice management software. State laws have a significant say in who can claim, compensation amounts, and how to prove liability. We’ll discuss each of the major changes below, but in short:
- Loss of consortium is a civil claim to recover damages due to wrongful injury.
- Tort cases are subject to state laws that can change how claims are considered.
- Claims can be brought forward for negligent, accidental, and intentional acts that deprive a person of relational benefits.
What is loss of consortium?
A loss of consortium claim evaluates the level of suffering a defendant’s action causes the non-injured claimant. These actions need to result in loss through severe or permanent injury before most courts can accept them.
We can also use Cornell Law School’s loss of consortium definition:
“Deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship (including affection and sexual relations) due to injuries caused by a tortfeasor.”
This gives us some valuable insights into loss of consortium cases and how they answer three pressing questions:
What are the benefits of a relationship?
Loss of consortium claims is limited to non-economic damages. These are relationship benefits like intimacy, companionship, affection, social standing, and moral support. This harm is harder to demonstrate legally, although case management software simplifies document management.
Since these are closer to pain and suffering damages, claimants can’t recover monetary damages like loss of income or medical bills.
What is a consortium in legal terms?
“Consortium” comes from the root word consort. Like most legal terms, it’s of Latin origin and roughly just means “partnership.” Legally, the term evolved with the laws and language of the time. A South Carolina legal review offers the most accepted modern definition of a consortium, namely:
“The conjugal fellowship of husband and wife and the right of each to the company, cooperation, and aid of the other in every conjugal relationship.”
What counts as damage from a tortious act?
Most claims will only be awarded in cases of death or severe, long-term injury. Since relational losses fall under non-economic damages, compensation is only a rough estimate based on the harm caused. Simply put:
- A loss of consortium case only deals in non-economic damages, not direct financial expenses.
- In common law, a consortium is usually a marriage or domestic partnership but can include family relations.
- Any monetary compensation will be roughly equal to the harm suffered as a result of tortious actions.
What are examples of loss of consortium claim?
Civil cases are complex, and that’s before you factor in state jurisdiction. Legal matter management software helps law firm process the variables of multiple personal injury cases at once. Depending on the clients, loss of consortium claims can include:
- Loss of spousal consortium (domestic)
Spousal claims are the most widely accepted example of loss of consortium. When a partner is incapacitated, damages tend to focus on losing domestic services, labor, and support. Compensation depends on the non–injured partner’s ability to show how wrongful injury deprived them of the emotional and marital benefits of the relationship.
- Loss of parental consortium (children)
When a child loses a parent to injury or death, they may be able to bring claim loss of parental consortium. This type is more variable-dependent. New York, for example, doesn’t allow children or siblings to claim under their state laws. Texas lets minors and adult children claim in the case of severe or disabling injury to a parent.
- Loss of filial consortium (parents)
Loss of filial consortium can be just as complicated for parents who’ve lost a child in a personal injury case. Some New York courts will only compensate parents if the child is a minor. In a Texas court, parents can’t claim if the child survives.
Despite the role of state courts, the strength of each claim relies on the same factors:
- Proving the closeness of the relationship
- Demonstrating pain and suffering based on the severity of the injury
- Determining if other relationships already cover losses to the non-injured person (e.g., a remaining parent)
What are loss of consortium settlement amounts?
All three factors help courts determine the validity of each claim and how much compensation to award for non-economic damages. While the monetary value is at the discretion of the judge or jury, non–economic damages are still hard to quantify.
Spousal claims are the easiest to prove and tend to see the highest settlement amounts, such as:
- $5,000,000 to a woman after nine surgeries lead to her husband’s loss of vision.
- $1,000,000 to a woman after a workplace fall left her husband paralyzed and incontinent.
The best personal injury case management software should include a settlement calculator – a useful feature for personal injury cases.