What is “loss of consortium”?

Damages for loss of consortium cover the losses a spouse experiences when a partner is injured. In a civil case like one for personal injury, an injured plaintiff who demonstrates the defendant‘s liability in court is entitled to money damages for various costs. Most or all of a damages award typically goes to pay actual damages, or the costs that were actually caused by the injury. While these include clear losses like medical bills and lost wages, they also include amounts that may be more difficult to calculate, like the loss a spouse suffers when his or her partner is injured by another’s negligence.

Loss of consortium damages usually fall into one of three categories: damages for loss of services, damages for loss of support, and damages for loss of quality in the “marital relationship,” which includes things like providing affection and emotional support. All three kinds of damages can be included when calculating an appropriate amount to repay the injured plaintiff’s spouse for loss of consortium.

“Loss of services” includes the reasonable value of the chores and other work the spouse did around the house. It may include everything from mowing the lawn to doing the dishes to cleaning up after the pets. A spouse who is severely injured or dies in an accident may not be able to do the chores and repairs he or she once did, leaving the partner to pick up the slack – or pay out of pocket to have someone else do the work. This portion of the loss of consortium award is intended to repay the injured person’s spouse for the extra burden that occurs when one partner can no longer keep up his end of the housework.

“Loss of support” includes the amount of financial support the injured spouse would have contributed to the couple or the family if the injury had not occurred. This amount is related to the injured person’s lost wages, but it is a separate award given to the spouse. When calculating the amount of loss of support, a jury typically considers not only how much the injured person would have made, but also how the money is typically managed in the family. For instance, an injured person who is known for saving his money or spending it on his spouse may receive a larger loss of support award for his spouse than an injured person who is known for blowing every last dime on his own whims.

If the injured person suffers a wrongful death due to his injuries, the spouse may receive an amount for loss of support that roughly equals what the injured person would likely have made had he not met an untimely death. This amount is usually limited to the expected normal lifespan of either the injured person or the spouse, whichever is shorter.

“Loss of marital relationship” covers all the parts of a marriage that don’t have dollar signs, but are most valued by married couples: love, affection, companionship, the ability to rely on one another for advice, and even sexual intercourse. The specific things a jury must take into consideration when thinking about damages for the loss of the marital relationship differ depending on the laws that apply in each state, but they typically include those emotional factors that we prize highly, but that aren’t demonstrated by a bill or a receipt. As a result, this part of the loss of consortium award can be the most difficult to put a number on.

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