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Loss of Consortium

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Loss of Consortium

loss of consortiumWhen a person suffers a severe injury in an accident, New York law allows the spouse to recover “loss of consortium” damages from the defendant.

What is Loss of Consortium?

A spouse who is seriously injured may not be able to engage in intimate relations with their marriage partner. They also might be unable to provide their spouse with the same level of love, companionship, comfort, support, services, society, and affection as before the accident. These losses are collectively called loss of consortium.

For example, a “loss of services” occurs when the injured spouse can no longer contribute to household chores, such as cleaning the house, raking the leaves, or walking the dog. Another example is “loss of support,” which is when a family loses income due to the injured spouse being unable to work. 

Determining Damages for Loss of Consortium

The damages available for loss of consortium are difficult to calculate. There is typically little documentation of the losses, such as medical bills or paychecks. In most cases, it’s up to the jury to decide.

Jury Consideration

When determining damages, a jury considers:

  • The nature and extent of the injured spouse’s services and society before the accident
  • The injured spouse’s disposition, temperament, and character
  • The interest they showed in the home life and social life of their spouse and family
  • Their management of the household
  • The extent of the spouses’ sexual relations

In making this determination, the jury relies on their judgment and observation. These factors are vague and often create confusion among the jury. Accordingly, loss of consortium damages are often modified by the courts. 

Examples of Loss of Consortium Awards

Damages awards for loss of consortium can vary greatly. Some are quite substantial, while others are very low. Sometimes, no damages are awarded. 

Here are some examples from real cases in New York:

  • Large award. In this case, the plaintiff suffered a workplace injury that fractured the vertebrae in his back. This injury left him paralyzed, incontinent, and unable to engage in intimate relations. The plaintiff’s wife took responsibility for caring for her severely injured husband. She filed a loss of consortium claim, and the jury awarded her $3,000,000 for loss of services and society. Upon appeal, this was reduced to $1,000,000.
  • Moderate award. A spouse suffered severe leg injuries and was awarded $1,050,000. The injured spouse’s marital partner filed a loss of consortium claim and received $100,000 in damages.
  • Negligible award. The plaintiff was laying bricks during the construction of a building. He fell from scaffolding through the open frame of a window and collided with a concrete floor. Michael suffered a significant back injury and had to have his spine partially fused. His lawsuit resulted in a jury verdict of $200,000. Michael’s wife filed a loss of consortium claim. She received $15,000.

It is challenging to predict how a jury will react and what its verdict will be in loss of consortium claims.

Can Other Family Members Claim Loss of Consortium?

Traditionally, loss of consortium claims were restricted to the spouse of the injured party. However, in recent decades, the law has evolved. Some states recognize a loss of consortium claim, often called a loss of companionship or society claim, for other persons closely related to the injured party. These relationships include parent-child, child-parent, siblings, and even close unmarried couples.

New York, for the most part, has shied away from these changes in the law.

Parent-Child Relationship

Whether a parent may claim loss of companionship damages for their child is a complicated question in New York. One court has stated that “generally, in New York, parents cannot recover for loss of consortium/loss of services for their children.” However, another court has indicated that a claim may apply if the child is a minor.

If you are the parent of a child who has been severely injured, the best course of action is to seek the guidance of an experienced lawyer.

Other Relationships

In New York, a child may not claim loss of companionship or society for their parents. Likewise, siblings and close unmarried couples do not have a claim for loss of consortium. However, the law continues to evolve, and New York could extend it in the future.

Caps on Liability and other Limitations

New York does not have a limit, or “cap,” on non-economic damages like pain and suffering or loss of consortium.

Also, unlike many other states, no loss of consortium claim is available in wrongful death lawsuits.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for loss of consortium is three years. However, New York has several exceptions to this deadline. You should contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your spouse’s injury to protect your claim.

Contact a New York Personal Injury Attorney For Help

The law governing the loss of consortium is complex and evolving. Our experienced personal injury attorneys can explain the complexities of the law and help you pursue a loss of consortium claim.