What Is Loss of Consortium?

Loss of consortium is the loss of emotional and practical support that one spouse suffers when the other spouse is seriously injured.

If your spouse has been harmed by someone else’s negligence, you may feel obligated to downplay your own inconvenience and emotional hardship as you rearrange your life to support them. However, this reaction could be doing both of you a disservice. Pursuing a loss of consortium lawsuit, in addition to your spouse’s personal injury lawsuit, can result in better compensation and support for you as a couple, making it easier to weather this difficult time together.

Examples of Loss of Consortium

  • Physical Separation — Sometimes loss of consortium comes down to a literal loss of togetherness. If the injured spouse is confined to a hospital room for an extended period of time, it’s perfectly understandable for the other spouse to miss them. Couples can also end up living apart after injuries, sometimes for longer than expected, because the injured spouse needs to be close to a certain healthcare facility, or because the marital home lacks necessary accommodations for their new disabilities.
  • Emotional Changes in the Marriage — If the injured spouse is dealing with new depression, anxiety, or PTSD, those changes can take a heavy toll on the other spouse and the relationship. Physical brain damage can also drastically alter an injured spouse’s personality. Even if there is no neurological damage and minimal mental health damage, having the uninjured spouse take on caregiving activities for the injured spouse can shift the nature of the relationship.
  • Changes in Shared Leisure Activities — The activities a couple shares form a major part of how they relate to each other. If a couple formerly bonded over their shared love of sports, or video games, or travel, for example, and one of them loses the physical or mental capacity to participate in those things, the other person also loses a favorite hobby, or must try to enjoy it without their partner.
  • Loss of Domestic Labor — Some aspects of loss of consortium are purely practical. If the injured spouse performed a significant share of the cooking, cleaning, childcare, and other labor in the couple’s shared home, the loss of those services due to injury directly impacts the other spouse.
  • Changes in Physical Intimacy — When most people hear the phrase “loss of consortium,” the first thing that comes to mind is sex. Sadly, this is one of the main reasons why people choose not to pursue legitimate loss of consortium cases. Few people want to discuss their sex life in court, especially after a painful change. If this is your concern, bring it up with your lawyer in private. Challenges with intimacy are a perfectly valid reason for pursuing loss of consortium compensation, and in many cases, your spouse’s medical records may be all the proof you need. It’s also possible to sue for loss of consortium based solely on the other types of losses on this list and specifically exclude the change in sex life as part of your claim.

How to Prove Loss of Consortium

In order to make a case for loss of consortium, you and your lawyer will need to prove:

  1. That your spouse was injured by the defendant’s negligence. This is also necessary for your spouse’s personal injury suit.
  2. That you and your spouse are married, and have been since before the injury occurred.
  3. That your relationship with your spouse, or the benefits you derive from it, have been negatively affected by the injury.

These points might all seem obvious, but they’re not automatically assumed when a married person sues for personal injury. In order to collect compensation for loss of consortium, you as the uninjured spouse must specifically choose to argue for those damages.

The evidence you present should highlight the value of your marriage before the injury, the difficulties you’re having now, and the connection between those difficulties and the injury itself. For example, you might share video clips of your spouse dancing with you, or playing with your children, alongside medical records that show how painful or impossible those activities would be after the injury.

Essentially, your task is to convince the judge and jury that you are not trying to blame preexisting or fictitious marital problems on the injury, or claim a relationship with your spouse that you didn’t have. For example, if you and your spouse were already living apart by the time of the injury, rarely interacted, and did not coparent, you would have a poor chance of successfully suing for loss of consortium. Your chances would also be poor if your spouse’s injury was minor, and did not disrupt your lives beyond a brief need for medical care.

What you don’t have to do when suing for loss of consortium is precisely itemize every detail of your loss. Awards for loss of consortium are based on the jury’s conscience, not a mathematical formula. You and your lawyer can strategize together on how best to balance thoroughness with brevity for the most compelling case.

What Loss of Consortium Is Not

When discussing the definition of loss of consortium, it’s helpful to go over what this concept does not cover.

Loss of consortium is not:

  • Wrongful Death — Loss of consortium refers to a loss of benefits from a marriage while that marriage is still in progress. If your spouse died from the negligent act very quickly, you may be able to sue for wrongful death, but that’s a legally separate concept from loss of consortium, and the standards for determining appropriate compensation are different.  If, however, your spouse is still alive OR was alive for a lengthy period after the negligent act, a loss of consortium claim may be possible.
  • Loss of a Non-Spousal Relationship — Marriages are not the only kinds of relationships that can be affected by a serious injury, but they are the only ones eligible for loss of consortium compensation in Georgia. Loss of consortium does not apply to siblings, parents and children, or unmarried couples. Georgia does not recognize common law marriages unless they were established before 1997.
  • Lost Wages — When one spouse is injured, it’s common for the other one to lose income as a result of taking time off to care for them. This loss is unfortunately not recognized as part of loss of consortium, because the value being lost is not part of the relationship itself. If you and your spouse are planning to sue after an injury, you may want to consider paying for home nursing care and taking less time off, because nursing care can be compensated as part of the injured spouse’s medical expenses.
  • Part of Worker’s Comp — Employers are generally immune to lawsuits from injured workers and their families. Instead, workplace injuries are covered by the worker’s comp system, which does not cover non-economic losses like loss of consortium.

The Stoddard Firm Has Experience Representing Couples Together

Married couples pursuing personal injury and loss of consortium cases do not need to seek out separate representation. One lawyer can handle both personal injury and loss of consortium for the same incident.

In fact, shared representation is usually the most efficient way to handle things, because the loss of consortium case relies on proof of the spouse’s injuries and the defendant’s negligence — the same facts that will need to be established in the personal injury case.

The Stoddard Firm has experts on both personal injury and loss of consortium who can work with you as a couple. We’ll talk about what you’re comfortable sharing in court, and how to get you both the best possible compensation.

We also understand that not every couple will choose to pursue both personal injury and loss of consortium at the same time. There’s good reason why the statute of limitations for loss of consortium is four years, twice as long as for personal injury. It can take a while for a marriage to reach a “new normal” after a serious injury, and for the reality of that new normal to sink in. Many uninjured spouses start off feeling that loss of consortium isn’t necessary, but then change their minds as they see the lasting impact on their lives.

If you’re interested in suing for loss of consortium, whether your spouse has already filed a personal injury suit or will be suing alongside you, feel free to reach out any time by phone or chat for a free consultation.

Attorney Matt Stoddard

Atlanta Personal Injury LawyerMatt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]

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