When a loved one gets into a car accident and is seriously and permanently injured, the family will be forever changed by the injury. Not only may the loved one no longer be able to work or move around in the same way, but he or she may act or see the world differently than before. An injured spouse can change the entire dynamic of the marital relationship, especially if the injured spouse requires a certain level of care and/or can no longer live in the same capacity as before the injury. When deciding whether to enter into a suit against the party who injured your spouse, there are a variety of actions that you may decide to take. It is, however, possible for you, as a non-injured spouse, to have your own legal remedies, especially if the accident changes your marital life completely. This right of action is known as a “loss of consortium.”
What Is Loss of Consortium?
An action for Loss of Consortium evaluates the legal rights of the marital relationship. Since 1889, marital legal rights provided that each partner within the marriage was due “comfort, companionship, and affection of the other.” Loss of consortium originally was applied when a woman was legally considered to “belong” to her husband by virtue of their marriage, but now can be applied by both sexes in the instances where, after an injury, the injured spouse is no longer able to provide for the “comfort, companionship, and affection” to the non-injured spouse. Though this may relate to sexual relations between the marital partners, it can also include domestic duties that each spouse provides for the marriage, such as childrearing, housework, yard work and gardening, basic maintenance of the property and financial affairs, cooking for the family, and driving family members around.
Factors to Show “Loss of Consortium”
To be able to claim Loss of Consortium, the non-injured spouse must prove:
- The spouses were married at the time of the injury
- There is a significant difference in the marital relationship before the injury and after the injury
- The difference between the marriage pre- and post-injury was proximately caused by the injury itself
How Damages May Be Calculated
The measure of damages that the non-injured spouse can collect, once the above-mentioned have been demonstrated, will be based on an evaluation of the marital relationship before and after the accident. If the couple has evidence to show that they were happily married, and once the accident occurred the marital relationship became strained and non-existent, the damages will more likely be higher.
Also, the measure of damages will be impacted by the role that the injured spouse played in the operation of daily life. The fact he or she worked full time would not bar recovery because it is understood that the injured spouse had domestic responsibilities outside of his/her career. The damages will also be adjusted if the family requires the hiring of a replacement to take on the responsibilities that the injured spouse may no longer maintain.
Personal Injury Attorneys
If you or your spouse has been injured, please feel free to contact an experienced Memphis personal injury lawyer who can help evaluate not only your personal injury claim but any loss of consortium claims that may apply. Please contact a law firm for an initial consultation today.
Thanks to Patterson Bray for their insight into personal injury claims and loss of consortium.