A Guide to Loss of Consortium in California
Loss of consortium is a legal term to describe a person’s inability to participate fully in their relationships after an injury. If your husband or wife was injured, for example, they may have to step back from ordinary marital activities, and you may have to miss their companionship. In California, you could be entitled to compensation if you experience this loss due to your spouse’s personal injury.
Here’s an explainer on claiming loss of consortium in California. If you believe you have a claim, please don’t hesitate to consult our experienced personal injury attorneys for free.
What is “consortium” or “loss of consortium”?
“Consortium” in this context means the legal right of a spouse or partner to have the company, affection, intimacy, and assistance of their partner. The Judicial Council of California specifies that loss of consortium includes:
- The loss of love, care, companionship, comfort, affection, assistance, protection, society (association), and moral support, AND
- The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations [or the ability to have children].
Examples of Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium can take on many forms involving physical and emotional aspects. Examples include:
- Lack of physical intimacy or sexual relations with the injured spouse
- Injured spouse can no longer engage in activities that the couple used to enjoy together.
- Injured spouse can no longer express care and affection due to post-injury anxiety, irritability, depression, or PTSD.
These experiences can occur after any type of injury, but in order to be compensable, the injury must have been caused by someone else’s negligence. Such injuries commonly occur in:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle or bicycle crashes
- Pedestrian accidents
- Truck wrecks
- Slip-and-fall accidents
- Medical malpractice
- And other accidents caused by a third party.
Is loss of consortium a cause of action in California?
Yes, California recognizes loss of consortium as a cause of legal action separate from the personal injury case. The state considers it a non-economic (non-monetary) loss following a personal injury.
If you’ve suffered the lack of companionship or marital relations from your spouse because they were injured by a negligent party, you can file a loss of consortium lawsuit against the at-fault party. If successful, this lawsuit could provide you with monetary compensation that represents your loss.
Who can sue for loss of consortium in California?
In California, only the spouse or the registered domestic partner of the injured may sue for loss of consortium. Other states allow children to sue for the loss of guidance and care from an injured parent, but California does not permit this.
Do I have to include my loss of consortium claim in my spouse’s personal injury case?
No – in California, a loss of consortium claim is separate from and independent of the injured spouse’s personal injury claim. If you’re the non-injured spouse, you may sue for loss of consortium even if your injured spouse has not sued for personal injury.
However, if your injured spouse did sue and lost, or if they agreed that the other party was not liable, you cannot file a loss of consortium claim against that same party.
What do I need to prove in a loss of consortium claim?
To prove that you have indeed suffered this loss and are entitled to compensation, you must satisfy these four elements of a loss of consortium case:
Valid marriage or registered domestic partnership
You and the injured person must have been legally married or registered when the injury occurred. If the injury happened before your legal union, your claim may not be valid.
The only exception is if the injury’s symptoms started appearing only after you got married or registered. For instance, if your spouse was exposed to asbestos before you got together, but their respiratory problems began appearing when you were already married, you may still have a valid claim.
Wrongful injury to one spouse or partner
A wrongful injury is one that’s caused by a third party whether through negligence, recklessness, or intentional violence.
Loss of consortium suffered by the other spouse or partner
To prove this element, you’ll need to show your experience of lost consortium. With the help of a sympathetic attorney, you can gather and present evidence of your injured spouse’s physical limitations and behavioral changes since the accident. You may also provide your own testimony of how your relationship changed after they got injured.
Lastly, you must convince the court that your spouse’s injury is what caused the loss of consortium. Defendants will try to dispute this, such as by asserting that your marital relationship had already diminished before the accident, or that your marriage was challenged by something else other than the injury (for example, an extramarital affair).
This is a tricky part of a loss of consortium claim, but a competent attorney can help you prove causation and protect your case from the strategies of the defense.
What are loss of consortium settlement amounts in California?
Loss of consortium is a form of non-economic damages, meaning it is subjective and has no tangible dollar value. The judge or jury will use their discretion to determine the appropriate amount to award the claimant, taking into account the various factors of the case.
Generally, the longer the injured spouse takes to recover, the greater the award will be. In some cases involving permanent injury or death, the judge or jury will determine the life expectancy of the injured spouse had they not been injured. The non-injured spouse may then receive compensation for the remainder of that life expectancy.
There is no standard formula to calculate how much you could get for loss of consortium. The best way to determine how much you deserve is to discuss this with an attorney who is experienced in cases like yours.
What is the statute of limitations (time limit) for loss of consortium in California?
The statute of limitations sets a deadline to file a lawsuit. For California loss of consortium, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident or from the date the injury was discovered. A few circumstances can shorten or extend this deadline. It’s best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to get started on your potential claim.
Contact a San Diego County Personal Injury Attorney
If you’re considering a loss of consortium claim in Southern California, let the Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers help you. Our firm has been fighting for injured Californians for over 20 years, winning over $100 million on behalf of our clients.
Many of our cases revolve around non-economic damages like loss of consortium. We can use our experience and tenacity to help you obtain your maximum settlement or award. More than that, we understand the delicate nature of this claim that spotlights your marriage, so we’ll handle your case with utmost sensitivity and consideration.
Your consultation with us is free and confidential. Call us today at (619) 550-1355.
Robert Hamparyan is one of California’s most accomplished personal injury lawyers. Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers San Diego was founded so that Robert could bring more of his skill and knowledge to personal injury victims in all types of cases. Robert and his team have dealt with semi truck accidents, wrongful death cases, brain & spine injuries, and many other types of personal injury cases with soaring success.
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