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Loss of Consortium

When a person is injured in a serious accident, physical injury is unfortunately sometimes just the beginning of the damages involved. The mental and emotional toll it can take on the victim, not to mention their family, can be crushing. Because courts recognize that an accident victim is not the only party whose quality of life suffers, there is a claim available in personal injury law called loss of consortium for the surviving spouse or certain family members of an injured victim. It is designed to compensate the victim’s loved one when the injured victim is no longer able to provide affection, support, companionship, and/or sexual relations in the ways that they did before the accident.

In What Kinds of Cases Can You File a Loss of Consortium Claim?

Loss of consortium claims are not common in cases where the accident victim survives, heals and is able to resume their daily activities as before. However, in cases involving severe, life-changing injuries—such as spinal injuries, brain trauma and paralysis—a loss of consortium claim can provide compensation for the injured person’s partner. Loss of consortium can also exist in a wrongful death case to compensate the person for the loss of their loved one.

Loss of consortium cases are not limited to just spouses—certain family members, including parents, can also have claims. In most cases, however, loss of consortium claims are most commonly filed when a spouse has been injured. For example, if a husband is gravely injured in a terrible motor vehicle accident and can no longer do chores, help his wife the household, or act as a source of emotional support for his wife, she might file a claim for loss of consortium. This would provide compensation for the loss of companionship, affection and practical contributions to the household.

What Does Loss of Consortium Cover?

North Carolina courts have held that loss of consortium is to compensate a victim’s loved ones for the absence of their family member’s society, service, companionship, affection and sexual gratification. “Companionship” can refer to a change in the person’s temperament or personality as well as changes in their social life.

How Do I Need to File a Loss of Consortium Claim?

Under North Carolina law, if the victim has filed any suit for their primary damages, the person filing for loss of consortium must join their claim as part of the victim’s lawsuit. This essentially means the two lawsuits will be tried and heard together in the same case because they are so related. It is important to speak with a personal injury attorney to ensure that the claim is properly filed.

How Are Loss of Consortium Claims Valued?

There is no set formula for determining the value of a loss of consortium claim. The injuries for which loss of consortium seeks to compensate are highly intangible and subjective. In addition, the range of damages in these types of cases is as wide-ranging as the different types of possible injuries, so the value of any claim depends on the unique circumstances of that particular case and the jury. The goal is to give the jury a sense of how much the person contributed to their marriage/household/familial relationship before the accident so that they can better value the total harm suffered. Any information about the person’s social life, moods, contributions to the household and, in the case of spousal loss of consortium, sexual activity prior to the accident can be helpful in this deliberation.

Will a Loss of Consortium Claim Be Affected by Divorce?

An accident that leaves one spouse disabled and/or fundamentally different than they were before is sometimes terminal to a marriage. In the event that a married couple decides to separate or divorce after an accident, the loss of consortium claim will be negatively affected. Loss of consortium is not available for the period after which separation occurs. In addition, any award for the time that the spouses were together tends to be much less than in cases where the jury does not have to hear about marital strife.

If your loved one has been injured and you want to file a claim for loss of consortium, it is important to speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney about your case as soon as possible. Time limits called statutes of limitations require a person to file a claim within three years of the injury. Arnold & Smith, PLLC is an aggressive civil and criminal litigation firm with offices in and around the Charlotte region. Contact us today for an initial consultation about your case with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

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