Suffering severe injuries in a traumatic accident can impact nearly all aspects of a person’s life. This includes the person’s marriage. As a result, accident victims’ spouses can suffer direct negative effects as well; and, in California, spouses can recover financial compensation for these negative effects through a claim for loss of consortium damages.
Bakersfield personal injury lawyer Mickey Fine has extensive experience in a range of complex cases involving loss of consortium. He is committed to helping the wrongfully injured and their families move forward after a serious accident.
What Qualifies as Loss of Consortium?
Loss of consortium is defined in the California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI). Specifically, CACI 3920 states that jurors can award damages to an accident victim’s spouse in order to reasonably compensate the spouse for the loss of the accident victim’s “companionship and services.” The instruction goes on to state that loss of “companionship and services” includes:
- “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].”
However, under California law, loss of consortium damages are strictly non-financial in nature. After a serious (but non-fatal) accident, only the accident victim can recover compensation for his or her financial losses. Thus, any amount awarded to an accident victim’s spouse for loss of consortium will not include:
- Loss of the victim’s financial support;
- The need to pay for nursing, cleaning, or other personal or household services; or,
- Any loss of income the spouse suffers while taking care of the victim.
To be clear, while these rules regarding loss of consortium damages appear in the California Civil Jury Instructions, it is not always necessary to go to court in order to recover just compensation. Just like accident victims’ personal injury claims, spouses’ loss of consortium claims can often be settled through the insurance negotiation process.
Calculating Compensation for Loss of Consortium in California
So, how do you calculate loss of consortium damages? CACI 3920 states, “[n]o 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 spouses, and their attorneys, to present evidence demonstrating how much they deserve to recover.
Given CACI 3920’s definition of loss of consortium, calculating an appropriate damages award requires careful and thorough consideration of all of the various ways an accident victim’s trauma affects the victim’s relationship with his or her spouse. Since there is no precise formula for calculating loss of consortium damages in California, the key is to present as much evidence as possible in order to present the most compelling case possible.
Since loss of consortium can take many different forms, evidence of spouses’ losses after traumatic accidents can take many different forms as well. With this in mind, some examples of the types of evidence that can be used to prove loss of consortium include evidence that:
- The victim’s injuries have resulted in a loss of mobility that impair his or her ability to provide care, assistance, and protection;
- The victim’s injuries prevent him or her from engaging in sexual relations or having children;
- The victim’s emotional trauma impacts his or her desire to go out or ability to provide moral support;
- The victim’s emotional trauma impacts his or her ability to provide companionship and comfort; and,
- The victim’s physical or psychological injuries have impacted the couple’s physical or emotional relationship in other ways.
What are all of these “losses” worth? The short answer is, “It depends.” Calculating loss of consortium damages is a personal matter that truly requires a case-by-case approach. Medical records, expert testimony (i.e. from a psychiatrist or family therapist), testimony from friends and loved ones, and written or video documentation can all be used to help substantiate a claim for loss of consortium. Ultimately, couples will need to work with their attorneys to determine what they think is reasonable in light of their individual circumstances—and then their attorney will need to use the available evidence to prove that this amount is reasonable in negotiations with the insurance companies or in court.
If you need to know more about pursuing a claim for loss of consortium damages in California, please contact us to speak with Bakersfield attorney Mickey Fine. Mr. Fine has decades of experience helping accident victims and their spouses recover just compensation following traumatic accidents.
To schedule a free and confidential consultation as soon as possible, call (661) 333-3333 or tell us how you would like to be contacted online today.