What You Should Know About Damages for Loss of Consortium
Serious personal injuries, whether they are caused by malpractice or by traffic accidents, have many more repercussions than we may realize. There is pain and suffering, expensive hospital bills, emotional/psychological trauma, and the injuries may result in the injured spouse being unable to go to work for some time, which may cause a considerable amount of lost income.
The spouse of an injured party may also suffer psychologically due to the stress caused by loss of companionship, having to become a caretaker for their loved one, and unexpectedly becoming the main financial provider in a household that relied on joint incomes. This kind of loss is called loss of consortium.
What Exactly Is Loss of Consortium?
Loss of consortium belongs in the category of non-economic damages. However, unlike the traditional emotional distress that affects the person who has been injured, loss of consortium affects the people close to the person who has been injured.
There is a broad definition of the phrase, which includes a range of loved ones that are affected when a member of the family suddenly dies in an accident or during a medical procedure where a serious mistake was made. The severe injuries a person survives are likely to dramatically affect both the injured party as well as his/her loved ones who are often around the injured victim.
Maryland recognizes a narrow definition of loss of consortium and limits it to married couples. In this context, loss of consortium is defined as the loss of the closeness that a married couple normally enjoys, including loss or severe impairment of their companionship and relational obligations.
Several other states allow loss of consortium claims for loved ones, including children and other close family members, for the loss of the important parts of the relationship that were special to the injured party and his/her loved one.
Loss of consortium claims are typically filed when the injured spouse can no longer fully perform his/her former role in the marriage and partake in the activities that couples typically enjoy together. This causes a severe sense of loss of the non-injured spouse.
It is also important to know that in order to file a claim for loss of consortium, the couple must have been married since before the accident occurred. Maryland, unlike some other states, does not allow for loss of consortium claims in common law marriages or civil unions.
How to Figure out the Value of a Loss of Consortium Claim?
Since loss of consortium is intangible and harder to quantify than the physical injuries that have been suffered, it can be difficult to put a monetary value on the claim. That’s why it is essential to work with an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney who can guide you as you fight for fair compensation.
What You Must Know About Loss of Consortium Cases
First, you should know that damages are generally decided by a jury, so it is crucial to build a convincing case. Your lawyer, a Maryland car accident attorney or personal injury attorney who has experience with loss of consortium cases can be invaluable during this process.
Proving loss of consortium in front of a jury can be challenging as well as embarrassing. It does not help that very personal and intimate questions are likely to be asked during the process.
Defense attorneys, in particular, may ask very pointed and specific questions about your sexual relations, both before the injury and afterward. They may ask how often your spouse and you had sex before and after your spouse was injured, or how exactly the injuries have made sex more difficult. Just be aware that your sex life will be the subject of discussion in court.
To better assess your losses, jurors may also scrutinize the duration and the quality of your marriage, your living arrangements, and your life expectancies.
The types of injuries and damages that tend to lead to loss of consortium include brain injuries, amputations and loss of limbs, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, inability to perform basic tasks, and many more. Brain injuries can also cause serious emotional problems that can have a severe impact on a marriage.
Loss of consortium claims must be filed in the same lawsuit as that of the injured party or wrongful death case and both spouses must be named in the lawsuit. Thus, when a personal injury claim ends or is settled, the loss of consortium claim will automatically end.
How Much Is the Maximum Payout?
Maryland has a cap on how much compensation can be received for non-economic damages in personal injury claims. That cap increases slightly every year and currently stands at approximately $920,000. Unfortunately, there is no separate amount for loss of consortium, so if the entire amount is awarded to the injured person for pain and suffering, there may be very little, or likely, no compensation awarded for the spouse’s loss of consortium claim.
In addition, if the lawsuit that underlies the loss of consortium claim is based on a medical malpractice claim, you should know that Maryland has damage award caps on medical malpractice claims as well. These caps for medical malpractice will include any amount for a loss of consortium claim.
What You Should Do
If you or your spouse suffered a personal injury due to someone else’s negligence in an accident or through medical malpractice, and the injuries have led to a loss of companionship, affection, or the quality of your marriage, you should talk to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Send us an email or call us for a free consultation. We’ll be happy to help you.