Loss of Consortium
A loss of consortium claim alleges that an injured victim sustained damages because another party injured their spouse. Pennsylvania tort laws allow spouses to recover compensation for deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship. Loss of consortium claims are derivative claims because they arise from an injured spouse’s personal injury case.
What is Loss of Consortium?
A loss of consortium occurs when an uninjured spouse is deprived of their spousal relationship because of another party’s negligence and wrongdoing. For example, a spouse may experience pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages because their spouse was injured or killed by another party.
The uninjured spouse is deprived of their relationship with the injured spouse. The deprivation of the spousal relationship results in a claim for loss of:
- Sexual relations
- Domestic services, such as caring for the couple’s children, household chores, etc.
- Affection and love
- Guidance and support
The claim for loss of consortium must be filed within the two-year statute of limitations for most personal injury claims in Pennsylvania. An uninjured spouse may file a loss of companionship and consortium claim for personal injuries caused by car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and other accidents or incidents.
Calculating a Loss of Consortium Claim
When a spouse files a claim for loss of consortium, calculating the value of the damages can be challenging. Loss of consortium is a type of non-economic damage. Therefore, you are attempting to place a price on a person’s pain and suffering.
Pennsylvania does not have a statutory formula or guidelines for calculating the value of a loss of consortium claim. Factors that might impact the value of the claim could include:
- The strength of the couple’s marriage before the accident and injury
- How did the spouses divide the household chores and responsibilities?
- Were the couple on good terms with each other and in an intimate relationship?
- What is the age and life expectancy of each spouse?
The uninjured spouse must prove that the other party intentionally or negligently injured their spouse. The spouse must also prove that the injuries caused by the accident deprive the spouse of enjoying the same relationship with the injured spouse as they did before the accident.
Loss of Consortium Cases Can Be Extremely Personal and Highly Invasive
The nature of the damages in question makes a loss of consortium claim very personal and invasive. You are attempting to prove that your spouse’s injuries prevent you from enjoying a loving, affectionate, and intimate relationship with your spouse. Therefore, you must be willing to discuss intimate matters in open court and be cross-examined by the defense attorney.
For example, if you allege that your spouse’s injuries prevent you from having a sexual relationship, a medical doctor can discuss how the injury prevents specific physical requirements for intercourse. However, you and your spouse need to describe what has changed since the injury. Those details could be difficult to discuss in court.
The defense may ask how many times a month you had intercourse before the accident and after the accident. He might ask you to describe the difference in your intimate relationship, including the things you could do before the accident that you cannot do now.
Your lives may become an open book in court. Your entire relationship is open for the defense to examine. Suppose the defense can find evidence that you and your spouse argued and had a strained relationship. In that case, the attorney may use that information to challenge your testimony that you had a loving, close relationship before the accident.
Before you file a loss of consortium claim, discuss your legal options with a lawyer. An attorney can give you an idea of the line of questioning the defense might pursue based on the facts of your case. However, be aware that the defense may raise other issues based on its investigation into your allegations of loss of consortium.
Loss of Consortium and Insurance Claims in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in the case of Koenig v. Progressive Insurance Co. that a loss of consortium claim falls under the at-fault party’s liability insurance limits. In other words, your damages for a loss of consortium claim can be paid by the at-fault party’s liability insurance provider.
However, the insurance company is only liable up to the policy limits. Therefore, if your spouse’s personal injury claim exhausts the policy limits, the insurance company is not legally liable for your loss of consortium claim.
For example, a driver has $150,000 in automobile insurance coverage, and your spouse receives a judgment of $140,000 for her personal injury damages. The insurance company would only be required to pay you up to $10,000 for a loss of consortium claim.
Insurance settlements can be tricky when a spouse alleges loss of consortium. Before accepting a settlement offer for either claim, talk with an injury lawyer.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers
You may be entitled to compensation for loss of consortium. Our legal team investigates all potential legal actions that can provide compensation to you and your family after an accident or injury. Call our law firm to schedule a free case evaluation with our Philadelphia injury attorneys at (215) 875-7030.