Loss of consortium is a type of non-financial loss that impacts spouses following traumatic accidents. In California, a spouse or registered domestic partner of accident victims can file a claim for loss of consortium if they are able to prove their right to financial compensation.
Bakersfield personal injury attorney Mickey Fine has seen firsthand the hardships endured by accident victims. He knows how a severe injury can impact virtually every aspect of your life, including your relationships with those closest to you. He is committed to holding those responsible for your losses accountable for their negligence.
So, what does loss of consortium include in California? Here’s an overview of what you need to know:
Two Aspects of Loss of Consortium Claims in California
California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) provides a good explanation of loss of consortium. Specifically, CACI 3920 explains that there are two aspects of loss of consortium claims under California law.
Following a wrongful death, or an accident in which there is one injured spouse, then his or her spouse can file a consortium claim to seek compensation for:
- “The loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support; and
- “The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations [or the ability to have children].”
Regarding the amount that spouses can recover for loss of consortium, CACI 3920 states: “No fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of these damages. You must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.” This means that it is up to the injured spouse and his or her spouse to prove how much they are entitled to recover.
Can a Registered Domestic Partner File a Loss of Consortium Claim in California?
Only an uninjured spouse or registered domestic partner can file a loss of consortium claim in California. Unmarried cohabitants and romantic partners are not entitled to consortium compensation.
Marriage is the legal union of couples as spouses. In California, consent, license, solemnization, and authentication are the three elements that make up a valid and lawful marriage.
California family code defines a registered domestic partnership as “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring,” but who don’t necessarily get married.
Couples must meet certain criteria and file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State to qualify for a registered domestic partnership in California.
How Does an Injured Spouse Prove a Claim for Loss of Consortium Claim?
How do you prove a claim for loss of consortium? What constitutes “just compensation” for no longer being able to maintain the marital relationship you previously enjoyed with your spouse or domestic partner?
In order to determine how much to seek in your loss of consortium claim, you will need to work with your attorney to place an appropriate dollar amount on your losses. Depending on your individual circumstances, your attorney may engage a physician, psychologist, marriage therapist, or other professionals to answer questions such as:
- How has your spouse’s injury impacted your day-to-day marital relationship with your spouse?
- How has your spouse’s injury impacted your overall quality of life?
- Has your spouse’s injury negatively impacted his or her ability to express love or affection?
- Has your spouse’s injury negatively impacted his or her ability to provide companionship, protection, or moral support?
- Is your spouse unable to have sexual relations as a result of his or her injury?
- Is your spouse unable to have children as a result of his or her injury?
- Are the effects of your spouse’s injury likely to be permanent? If not, how long are they likely to last?
All of these are factors that will impact the value of your loss of consortium claim. Relying on expert testimony and other forms of evidence, your personal injury attorney will work to determine the past and future loss of the companionship and services of the injured spouse to prove your right to financial compensation and establish an appropriate dollar amount for your loss of consortium claim.
Your attorney will present this evidence to a jury if necessary, although your attorney may also be able to use the evidence to negotiate for an out-of-court settlement.
In terms of the length of time for which you can seek compensation for loss of consortium, spouses can seek compensation for their future losses—there is no specific duration or end date that applies. CACI 3920 also makes clear that spouses can seek compensation for loss of consortium due to a reduction in the injured spouse’s expected lifespan.
What Loss of Consortium Does Not Cover
When seeking financial compensation for loss of consortium, in addition to knowing what your claim can (and should) cover, it is also important to know what your claim won’t cover. As CACI 3920 explains, an award for loss of consortium may not enable you to recover damages for:
- Loss of financial support due to your spouse’s inability to work
- Personal services (i.e. nursing or caretaking) that you will need to provide for your injured spouse
- Loss of earnings if you leave your job in order to care for your spouse
- Costs incurred to pay for domestic household services that your spouse previously performed
However, while you might not be able to recover damages for these through your loss of consortium claim, your spouse may be able to recover these losses in a personal injury claim. Under California law, accident victims can seek compensation for all of the financial and non-financial costs of their personal injuries. Along with medical bills, this includes loss of support, loss of services, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Speak With a Bakersfield Personal Injury Attorney for Free
If you have questions about your legal rights to loss of consortium following a serious accident, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation. There is no obligation to hire our law firm. To discuss your situation with Bakersfield personal injury attorney Mickey Fine in confidence, call 661-333-3333 or tell us how we can reach you online now.