What is Loss of Consortium?

Last week, we posted about the North Carolina Senate Bill 33, which is proposing to cap non-economic medical malpractice claims in North Carolina at $250,000. As a reminder, non-economic damages include pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of consortium, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non pecuniary damages. Most on the above list are self explanatory, but what exactly does “loss of consortium” mean?

Loss of consortium is when there is a disruption in a marriage due to the injuries that someone in the family has suffered. In an injury claim, one may be able to receive damages for loss of consortium. While there are many examples of this, we’ll use one below where you can get a better picture:

John and Sally are married and have two very active children. One day, John is involved in a car accident which is no fault of his own. John is seriously injured and will have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Due to his injuries and his disability, John is no longer able to be active with his children in baseball which he played at a Minor League level. Before the accident, John would spend 10-15 hours a week practicing baseball fundamentals to prepare them for their league games. Additionally, John is unable to perform tasks around the house for his wife. Before the accident, John was able to perform these duties without problem. John is also unable to sleep in the bed at night because his pain level is not as high when he sleeps alone in the recliner in the living room. Before the accident, John and Sally spent most nights happily sleeping in the bed together.

Due to his injuries, which were no fault of his own, his companionship with his wife and the support he provided in raising their children were both affected. Under existing law, Sally may be able to recover damages because her marriage and companionship with John and the support he once provided the family were negatively affected by the car accident.

More on Loss of Consortium:

* Photo courtesy of Benurs via Flickr Creative Commons