Posted in Personal Injury on January 18, 2021
It is not uncommon to read about the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit and see that somebody was awarded “loss of consortium” damages. “Consortium” is admittedly a confusing word for those who do not have much experience in the legal field. Here, we want to help our readers understand exactly what “loss of consortium” means and how this can affect personal injury victims and their families in the state of Georgia.
Loss of consortium damages are meant to provide compensation for the disruption of a married couple’s quality of life due to the injury or death of a spouse. Loss of consortium damages typically fall under the definition of non-economic or “general damages” that are awarded in these cases. These claims are based on a claimant spouse’s right to companionship, love, society, affection, services, and intimacy in a marital relationship.
Under Georgia law, loss of consortium damages in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is available only to a plaintiff who is the spouse of the injured person. When one or both spouses have been injured or if one spouse is killed because of the negligence or wrongful action of another party, the other spouse(s) can seek loss of consortium damages through a lawsuit.
Loss of consortium damages are not available to other parties in a personal injury lawsuit. For example, loss of consortium damages are not available to children, parents, significant others, fiancés/fiancées, or any other party. These damages can only be claimed by an actual legal spouse of the injured or deceased person. There may be other types of pain and suffering damages available to family members in a wrongful death case, but not loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium damages can be difficult to calculate because a large part of these losses is immeasurable. How do you put a number on a loss of the comfort or love that spouse provides? This is challenging, and in these cases, a judge will instruct a jury to measure loss of consortium damages by their reasonable value as determined by the “enlightened conscience of impartial jurors” as they take into consideration the nature of the circumstances of the case.
For loss of consortium damages, there does not have to be direct evidence of the value of these services. As we mentioned, loss of consortium damages are largely immeasurable. In these cases, a jury will hear the evidence of the marital relationship before the injury or death occurred and do their best to determine how much has changed since the incident. The jury will then decide how much the loss is worth based on their values and personal beliefs (i.e. their enlightened conscience).
For wrongful death cases and incidents that involve catastrophic injuries where the injury is expected to last for the remainder of one of the spouse’s lifetimes, the jury will look at the joint life expectancy of both spouses (how long they would have expected to live together as a married couple) when making their decision about the total amount of consortium damages to award.
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