Losing a spouse’s assistance and support due to injuries incurred in an accident can create difficulty and stress for you. The good news is that you may be able to file a loss of consortium claim to recover damages for the ways in which your partner’s injuries have affected your marriage.
Loss of consortium in California is a type of law designed to help in such situations. The California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI), specifically, CACI 3920, provides a good explanation of loss of consortium.
We’ll cover what these claims are, including loss of consortium examples, and a basic guideline of how to calculate loss of consortium damages.
What Are Loss of Consortium Claims in California?
Did you know you may be able to qualify for damages by filing a claim against the party responsible if your spouse is killed or injured as a result of someone else’s conduct? This type of action is called a loss of consortium claim.
Problems resulting from your partner’s death or your partner’s symptoms which impact your well-being — and for which you may therefore receive compensation — include deprivation of such things as companionship, support, comfort, guidance, and sexual relations.
You can file a loss of consortium claim in California not only if your spouse was injured due to an intentional action, but also if the party who caused the death or injury is guilty of negligence.
What Are Some Loss of Consortium Examples?
Various triggering incidents and resulting conditions can result in the need to file loss of consortium claims. Different types of: accidents, intentional actions, and negligent behavior can result in conditions like:
- Injury resulting in fatality.
- Physical injuries that impair mobility.
- Emotional injuries like depression or PTSD.
These are situations which result in loss not only to the victim, but for you as the spouse. Claims can be filed by California lawyers whose focus includes loss of consortium. Here are a few examples of personal injury causes which may result in relationship changes that qualify for loss of consortium damage claims.
If a retired man suffers permanent injury to his legs due to a head-on car accident caused by a drunk driver — and can no longer go for daily walks, play golf, help tend a garden, and perform other usual activities with his spouse due to the injuries, the spouse is entitled to sue the driver of the car which crossed the center line for loss of consortium damages.
Defective Product Accidents or Injuries
In a case where a defective ignition switch causes a car to catch on fire, and a woman receives burns while pulling her children from the vehicle, even if the children escape injury, the wife may be physically and emotionally scarred from the experience.
She may not be able to fulfill her role as wife and mother in the normal manner. She may have flashbacks and altered behavior due to the incident, even after her injuries heal. Her husband could file a loss of consortium claim.
Perhaps a woman’s doctor fails to order the appropriate tests in response to her repeated reports of serious symptoms. She develops a serious form of cancer, which would likely have been successfully treated if caught early, but now prevents her from having children. Her emotional state may also affect the relationship with her husband.
The husband could file for loss of consortium damages for the loss of the possibility of having children, as well as the impact of the medical condition on the activities and quality of life he formerly enjoyed with his wife.
A quarrel at a local event gets out-of-hand. A man is punched and knocked to the ground, incurring multiple broken bones and a head injury which results in ongoing severe headaches. He is unable to work and the tension results in his becoming abusive to his wife. She could sue her husband’s attacker for loss of consortium damages.
Proving Loss of Consortium in California
The following elements are required to file a California loss of consortium claim:
- You and your partner must have a valid and lawful marriage and the marriage or registered domestic partnership must have been in effect at the time of the accident.
- A personal injury must have occurred to your spouse as a result of the action of another person or persons or another entity.
- Your spouse must have a separate personal injury claim against the defendant.
- You, as the non-injured spouse, must show loss of the enjoyment of some aspect of your relationship with your injured spouse.
- Your injured, living spouse’s abilities or behavior must have changed as a result of the loss.
The changes that can cause loss of enjoyment of the relationship with your spouse include:
- The inability to perform household duties or assist in raising children.
- Changes in mood, such as irritability, depression, or anxiety.
- Inability to engage in recreational activities that you and your spouse once enjoyed together.
- Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support.
- Changes in the ability or desire to engage in sexual relations and/or have children.
These and more types of marital changes can result in a loss of consortium claim in California. An attorney experienced in such claims can help you determine if the changes in your relationship are likely to support a successful case.
Proving Proximate Cause
You must first prove your spouse’s personal injury charge — that his or her injuries resulted from the defendant’s conduct. To be awarded compensatory damages, you must also prove your spouse’s physical or emotional changes that result in your loss are a result of those injuries, not an unrelated factor.
How to Calculate Loss of Consortium Damages
No concrete formula is used to calculate loss of consortium damages. CACI 3920 states:
“No fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of these damages. You must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.”
So, basically, it is up to spouses to prove how much they are entitled to recover in non-economic, loss of consortium damages. A court may, however, reduce your loss of consortium recovery proportionately to any negligence by your injured spouse which contributed to the injury-causing incident.
A jury or judge will make an effort to estimate the value of whatever aspect of your relationship was damaged as a result of your spouse’s injuries. The stability of your relationship prior to the accident, is a primary consideration.
The amount you can recover may also be affected by an insurance company’s policy limits. Though loss of consortium is a separate claim, insurance companies will include it as part of the damages paid as compensation to the spouse for injuries.
And, in California medical malpractice cases, a $250,000 cap is imposed for each spouse for noneconomic damages.
Contact a California Attorney With Experience in Loss of Consortium Cases
If your relationship with your spouse has suffered because of his or her injuries incurred due to the action of another, you need the help of an experienced lawyer. We will fairly and honestly evaluate your situation. Contact AttorneyJeff today.
Loss of Consortium Frequently Asked Questions
Do my spouse’s injuries have to be permanent for me to file a loss of consortium claim?
No, the actual injuries can be temporary. You only need to prove that the injuries have affected an aspect of your relationship to recover damages.
Can I get paid for financial losses through compensatory damages?
No. Compensatory damage claims are for intangible losses resulting from a spouse’s injuries. But you may be able to recover financial losses through your spouse’s personal injury claim.
If both you and your spouse sustained injuries in an accident, can you still file a loss of consortium claim?
Yes. You can both file a personal injury claim, and if applicable, loss of consortium claim.