There is a general public misconception that loss of consortium in a personal injury claim always refers to a relationship between spouses, and usually one of a sexual nature. But loss of consortium is a much wider term. So what does “loss of consortium” include? Loss of consortium covers several types of social and emotional benefits, and, in addition to relationships between spouses, can also include relationships between close family members, such as between parent and child. In short, loss of consortium is when someone is deprived of the vital benefits of a family relationship.
Let’s look more closely at the meaning of this term and how it applies to personal injury cases—in most situations, wrongful death cases.
What Is Loss of Consortium?
Let’s firstly look at the question: What exactly is meant by the legal term loss of consortium? Loss of consortium is a kind of claim brought in a wrongful death or serious personal injury case by the surviving spouse or family member of someone who died or was permanently injured because of another party’s negligence. Because of the loss, the surviving individual is denied the important things their loved one previously provided. Those things generally include one or more of the following:
- Emotional support
- Sexual relationship
- Help to the family (chores, providing care, supporting children, etc.)
What Category of Damages Does Loss of Consortium Fall Under?
If you are injured, or your loved one is injured or dies due to the fault of another party, you may be eligible to receive damages. Damages refers to the sum of money a person is entitled to after another party has harmed them through a breach of duty or violation of a right.
Loss of consortium falls under the category of general, or non-economic, compensatory damages. General damages are less tangible than economic damages like medical bills and lost wages, but equally critical to the people involved in a wrongful death case. Because of their non-economic nature, general damages are somewhat more challenging to calculate and prove than economic damages. In addition to loss of consortium, this category of damages can cover damages such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Reduced quality of life
- Mental anguish
- Anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Damage to reputation
- Shortened life expectancy
Examples of Loss of Consortium in Recent Personal Injury Cases
To get a better understanding of how loss of consortium applies in real-life scenarios, let’s take a look at four examples of recent cases in which family members brought a loss of consortium claim.
In 2019, a high school student in Preston County, WV was killed in car accident after being allowed to leave school property without his parents’ consent. In 2021, his parents filed a lawsuit against the board of education, stating that the board’s negligence and the subsequent loss of their son caused pain, sorrow, mental and emotional anguish, grief, and loss of consortium.
In Ohio, a jury made the decision in 2021 to award $10 million to a family whose daughter died of asphyxiation shortly after birth. The verdict included $6 million for grief and anguish, and $4 million for the loss of consortium of their daughter.
In 2021, victims of a chemical company’s negligence were awarded damages after it was found that florescent lights were poisoning teachers, staff, and students at a Washington state school. In this case, the spouse of one of the victims who sustained severe brain damage from poisoning was awarded $150,000 as part of a loss of consortium, due to damages done to their relationship.
In 2021 in Indiana, the widower of a woman killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver filed a wrongful death lawsuit. In the lawsuit, the widower stated he is seeking damages for loss of consortium, as he was deprived the benefits of a relationship with his wife, whom he had married only four months earlier.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in West Virginia?
As we have seen in the above case examples, loss of consortium can apply to a range of family relationships. However, only certain parties related to a deceased person are legally able to file wrongful death claims, and these restrictions vary from state to state.
In West Virginia, a wrongful death claim is filed by a representative of the decedent. That person is typically an executor of the deceased person’s estate. Your wrongful death lawyer can help you determine who in your family can act as representative, and that individual will file the claim on behalf of the family.
In the state of West Virginia, according to Code section 55-7-6, individuals who may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Domestic partners
- Financial dependents
- Parents of a deceased fetus
- Other parties who suffer financially due to the death
If you are seeking further information about loss of consortium and other types of damages, wrongful death law, or how to file a personal injury claim in West Virginia, our law firm is ready to sit down and answer your questions. Reach out to our office to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC.