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Loss of Consortium: What it is and How it Can Affect You

by mightymidnighty on June 4, 2013

Loss of consortium is the legal term applied to intangible aspects of a personal relationship when an individual is a victim of significant injuries or wrongful death due to the negligence of a responsible party. All cases are adjudicated by financial damage awards and are normally determined by exact dollar amounts from a traditional formula, such as lost wages and medical bills. However, loss of consortium involving love and affection is much more difficult to calculate, and this often hinges on the actual parameters of the relationship and contributions the victim makes to that particular relationship.

Dividing Damages

There are two primary types of damage awards in a personal injury lawsuit. Compensatory damages involve actual lost finances and medical bills resulting from the injury. In cases of egregious negligence by the respondent, punitive damages can also be awarded by a jury. Of course, this requires taking a case to trial.

Insurance companies are not always directly responsible for punitive damages unless the court finds the company is bargaining in bad faith. However, including an aggressive insurance company in a trial is not impossible. The possibility of punitive damage awards by a jury can motivate a responsible party to make a good faith offer settling an injury or wrongful death claim. All experienced trail attorneys know this, and they can use the situation to maximize a case settlement.

Loss of Consortium Damages

Standard compensatory damages are awarded to the petitioner or estate representative. Loss of consortium is a different form of damage which is awarded directly to the affected spouse. According to a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer, spouses have the right to love, comfort, companionship, affection and moral support. This damage applies to both husbands and wives, so men should not dismiss the possibility of a consortium loss claim in association with a personal injury lawsuit. The amounts are calculated according to case particulars involving family relationships. An example would be a victim’s children and their ages, as loss of consortium damages could be much higher if the children are still underage. This could also include lost financial support from potential earnings of the victim until the children reach adulthood. Loss of consortium damages are clearly unique in this regard.

Loss of Consortium Limits

Loss of consortium has been addressed by the Supreme Court in terms of limitations, suggesting that limits should be set in single-digit multiples of the actual compensatory damages in the case. The standard was generally set at four times the compensatory amount, but each case should be evaluated separately for a higher potential. A case ratio result of 1:4 would mean that the spouse is awarded an additional financial amount limited to 25% of the compensatory award. Of course, this is a sliding scale and is open for considerable negotiation latitude prior to a trial. Many times a settlement is better than an actual trial because the respondent has a chance to beat the case in trial.

Loss of consortium is easily the most difficult damage to calculate definitively. It encompasses both compensatory aspects as well as punitive aspects. It is important to retain an attorney who is highly experienced and knowledgeable of the calculation method, including the possible outcomes of a trial, in an effort to maximize a damage award. However, it is not unreasonable that loss of consortium awards can be very valuable additions to any litigation involving serious personal injury or wrongful death.

Midnight Walker writes about law, personal injury and family issues. A New Hampshire personal injury lawyer, Tenn Tenn And PA, will help guide its clients through the maze of legal issues when confronted with Loss of Consortium.

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