What is “Loss of Consortium?”

What is “Loss of Consortium?”

If your spouse was severely injured in an accident, New York law allows you to recover “loss of consortium” damages from the person who hurt your spouse.

New York defines loss of consortium as a cause of action seeking compensation for an injury to the marital relationship caused by one spouse’s accident injuries. The concept of consortium includes not only sexual relations and services but also “love, companionship, affection, society, . . . solace and more.” 

Loss of consortium encompasses many ideas, as illustrated by the following examples.

Loss of Intimate Relations

This is a traditional source of loss of consortium damages when spouses can no longer enjoy intimate sexual relations due to one spouse’s injuries. For example, say a spouse is hit by a car. They become paralyzed from the waist down and can no longer perform sexually. The non-injured spouse might sue for loss of intimate relations.

Loss of Services

Many spouses share household chores. One spouse’s accident injuries sometimes results in a loss of services to the non-injured spouse. For example, a spouse may be severely injured and requires hospital care for several months. During that time, the injured spouse no longer contributes to household chores like vacuuming the floor, washing the dishes, or taking the kids to soccer practice. 

Loss of Companionship

Loss of companionship is what it sounds like. This happens when one spouse’s injuries prevent them from providing the same level of companionship to their spouse that they did before the accident. 

For example, say a happily married couple spent all their time together. Every evening, they would walk their dog through their peaceful neighborhood as a way to relax and unwind from a stressful day at work. However, assume one of the spouses gets a serious back injury and can no longer walk. The uninjured spouse has experienced a loss of companionship, because they no longer enjoy the companionship of a peaceful evening walk.

How Do Courts and Juries Measure Loss of Consortium Damages?

Loss of consortium damages do not have a clear financial value like medical bills and lost wages. Therefore, a jury must decide that a non-injured spouse deserves consortium damages based on the circumstances. 

A jury will consider the following factors:

  • The quality of the injured spouse’s services, society, and companionship prior to the accident.
  • The interest the injured spouse showed in the domestic and social life of the other spouse and the family.
  • Their character and temperament.
  • The extent of intimate relations between the spouses.

Although it’s the jury’s job to decide the award, New York law allows the court to modify a damages award if the court feels the verdict is excessive.

Other Potential Claimants

Historically, loss of consortium claims were only available to the injured person’s spouse. However, the law has allowed other people close to the injured person to file a claim in recent decades. In these cases, it is often called loss of companionship or society. Some of these close relationships include parent-child, child-parent, unmarried couples, and brothers and sisters.

New York, for its part, has declined to allow these claims. Child-parent, unmarried couples, and sibling relationships are not allowed to file a loss of consortium claim. 

It appears, however, that the state may allow the parent of a seriously injured child to file a claim for loss of companionship. Nevertheless, this does not seem to be settled law. While one court seems to suggest that the claim is available for the parent of a minor child, another stated that a claim for loss of society is not available for the parents of an injured child. 

If you are a parent and your child has been severely injured, consider consulting an experienced personal injury attorney to determine the current state of the law to see if a loss of companionship claim may be available.

Caps on Liability

Unlike many states, New York does not have limitations, or caps, on the amount of damages that can be awarded for loss of consortium. However, as discussed above, a court may reduce an award if it finds it to be excessive.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Interestingly, while a claim for loss of consortium may be available for severe injuries to a spouse, they are not generally available in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Limitation on Time to File a Claim

A lawsuit must be filed within a certain period after the accident causing the injury occurs. This time period is called the statute of limitations. For a loss of consortium claim, the general statute of limitations is three years. There are, however, many exceptions to the three-year period. For your specific case, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to file your claim in a timely manner.

Loss of Consortium Attorneys

The law covering loss of consortium is complicated. Our dedicated personal injury attorneys understand the ins and outs of the law and stand by to help you pursue a loss of consortium claim today and get the compensation you deserve.