When one spouse gets injured the other spouse usually has a loss of consortium claim.
Some people have no idea what consortium means. Other people think it’s just about sex.
Here’s what Washington law has to say about consortium:
The term “consortium” means the fellowship and the right of one spouse to the company, cooperation, and aid of the other in the relationship. It includes emotional support, love, affection, care, services, companionship, including sexual companionship, as well as assistance from one spouse to the other.
Consortium is really broad and deals with all aspects of the relationship.
It’s really helpful for the non-injured spouse to spend some time thinking about the ways that the relationship have been changed. It’s tough to come up with that kind of information on the spot/spontaneously.
The narrative has to be real. That requires deep thought—especially when it comes to the relationship. I think the best narratives are the ones where one spouse goes from participant to bystander (on the outside looking in).
When the non-injured spouse is deposed there will definitely be a question like: Do you and your spouse love each other any less as a result of the collision?
We had a client the other day who gave a really good response. He said: We don’t love each other any less…but it had changed our relationship. Here’s how the relationship has changed….
There are a couple interesting points regarding loss of consortium claims:
The loss of consortium claim is independent of the other spouse’s personal injury claim. The loss of consortium claim is not derivative—it’s independent from the personal injury claim.
Most insurance policies (like auto insurance liability policies) only provide coverage for personal injury claim—not loss of consortium.
If the claim is being made against the government separate claim forms for personal injury and loss of consortium must be filed.
Most underinsured motorist policies do not provide coverage for loss of consortium claims.
I used to think that loss of consortium claims only had real value where there was a catastrophic injury. My thinking has changed over time.
We recently arbitrated a case where the wife was in a wreck. She sustained some back and neck injuries. She had about $4,500 in treatment.
That doesn’t sound like that big a deal. But the injuries the wife sustained kept her from being able to go rock hounding with her husband. That was the way they connected and recharged their relationship. It was a big loss for both of them.
The arbitrator awarded $40,000 for her and $20,000 for him.
Marriage is an equal partnership. What affects one spouse affects the other. Loss of consortium claims have real value if the non-injured spouse really thinks through the ways in which the relationship was impacted.