Personal Injury 101: Loss of Consortium as non-Economic Damages

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Personal Injury 101: Loss of Consortium as non-Economic Damages

It’s generally common knowledge that personal injury victims can sue for certain kinds of damages. Those damages fall into two main categories: economic damages, and non-economic damages.

Economic damages relate to your expenses – medical bills, lost wages, car repair bills, funeral bills or future earning capacity are some examples – and in Tennessee, you could recover 100% of those expenses during a lawsuit.

Non-economic damages are more subjective; they include things like pain and suffering, quality of life and disfigurement. Loss of consortium falls under this category, and it’s usually one of the more difficult claims for non-lawyers to understand.

What does loss of consortium mean?

In the simplest of terms, a loss of consortium is the “legalese” way of saying that a spouse has lost the benefits of a specific social relationship with the injury victim. Most of the times, a husband or wife will file the claim because he or she can no longer engage in sexual intercourse with his/her spouse. However, a loss of consortium claim can be made for more than a lack-luster sex life; a loss of intimacy in any way could be grounds for a claim.

For example: if a man is in a horrific car wreck which leaves him in a coma, his spouse may file a loss of consortium claim not only because they cannot have sex, but because she is now deprived of her husband’s company, his conversation, and his affections.

What you must prove for the claim

Not all injury victims’ spouses are entitled to claim a loss of consortium, however. You must be able to prove:

  • That your loss is permanent (as in your spouse is paralyzed or has some permanent injury, or has been killed)
  • That your marriage enjoyed a certain intimacy and companionship (as in, you’ve never been separated and have no plans to separate or divorce)
  • That both you and your spouse are willing to move forward with the action (because loss of consortium claims may not be upheld if your injured partner refuses to divulge certain information)

Your attorney must make sure that it is legal to bring such a claim as well; in some auto insurance policies, only one lawsuit or action may be filed in the event of an accident. If that is the case, then a victim may sue for damages, but his/her spouse may not file for loss of consortium in regards to that same injury.

What makes the claim difficult is not the legality or the proof; it is the level of detail in which two parties must be willing to go about their lives together. For some couples, discussing any level of intimacy with another person may feel intrusive or like a betrayal of their privacy. We understand that couples need to make these decisions on their own, and offer counsel if you are unsure about pursuing a claim. Here at RML, we make sure to explore and explain all avenues of recovery to our clients to make sure that they receiving just and reasonable compensation when a personal injury affects their lives.

Other Personal Injury 101 Entries:

Personal Injury 101: What is an Accident Reconstructionist?