Loss of Consortium
Under Georgia law, the spouse of a party who suffered physical injuries may have a separate claim for “loss of consortium” against the person responsible for their spouse’s injury.
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What is Loss of Consortium?
Loss of consortium is also known as “loss of services.” It represents a spouse’s loss of sexual relations, household labor, society, companionship, and other features of marriage when their marriage partner is severely injured.
For example, a loss of household labor occurs when the injured party is unable to clean the house, do laundry, walk the dog, or cook dinner as they did before the injury. Loss of society is when the injured party is not available to provide emotional support or comfort. An example of loss of companionship is when spouses always took a peaceful walk at night, but no longer share this experience because of the injured spouse’s injuries.
How Are Loss of Consortium Damages Determined?
There is no easy way to quantify damages for loss of consortium. Typically, there are no medical bills or other documentation that show exactly what a spouse has lost after their spouse’s injury.
According to Georgia law:
“Damages for loss of consortium . . . are . . . not capable of exact pecuniary measure and must be left to . . . jurors.
The award of damages is usually up to a jury. They may consider factors such as the closeness of the relationship, the joint life expectancy of the spouses, and the spouse’s length of time living together.
Can Other Parties Make Loss of Consortium Claims?
Traditionally, in the United States, a claim for loss of consortium is only available to the injured party’s spouse.
However, the law has evolved over the last few decades. In several states, a person who is in a close family relationship with an injury victim may file a claim for loss of consortium. These claims are often called “loss of comfort.” For example, if a child is severely injured in a car accident, the parents may have a claim for loss of comfort. Likewise, if a parent suffers injuries, a child may have a claim.
The clear trend in the law across the country is expanding the type of relationships which may file a claim. Nevertheless, Georgia law follows the traditional law of limiting the claim to spouses only.
Limitations on Liability
Historically, the legislature has imposed limitations, or “caps,” on the amount awarded for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and similar compensatory damages. However, in 2010, Georgia’s Supreme Court voided these limits, stating that they “violate the right to a jury trial.”
Occasionally, punitive damages are available in loss of consortium claims. Punitive damages punish a defendant for grossly negligent or shocking conduct. They do not compensate an injury victim for their losses. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are capped at $250,000.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a loss of consortium claim is typically four years from the date of the injured spouse’s accident. If you miss the deadline, you will likely not be able to recover loss of consortium damages.
Examples of Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium claims are not always successful. Here are examples that examine two different sets of facts.
William and Karen have been married for five years. They love each other deeply, and their marriage remains vibrant and happy. One day a week earlier, they decided to have children.
That same night, while driving his pick-up home, William is struck by a drunk driver’s truck. William suffers severe back damage. He is paralyzed from the waist down and can no longer have intimate relations. William, who has always done his fair share of household chores like doing the dishes or walking the dog, can no longer contribute. Under this scenario, Karen may likely have a successful claim for loss of consortium.
Thomas and Margo, both Georgia residents, met each other while both on vacation in Las Vegas. In a drunken stupor one night, they got married. They then left Las Vegas.
Thomas and Margo never lived together. In fact, in the six months since they’ve been married, they’ve seen each other once, and that was to discuss divorce.
Then Margo gets injured in a hunting accident and is laid up in the hospital for a couple of months, recovering from a serious shot to the stomach. However, soon she makes a full recovery. Margo sues the hunting partner that accidentally shot her, and Thomas files a claim for loss of consortium. Under this scenario, Thomas may not prevail in his claim.
Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney For Help
If your spouse has been seriously injured in an accident, our dedicated personal injury lawyers are ready to help you with a loss of consortium claim.