Generally, personal injury law is designed to provide victims of carelessness and negligence with the compensation they need to be made “whole” again. The point is to give victims the necessary money to make their lives “normal,” as though they were never injured. Of course, money can never take away the pain of breaking a bone, and it cannot bring someone back from the dead. Still, the system strives to fully pay for those types of losses.
But what if your life is deeply affected even though you weren’t hurt yourself? What if, for example, your husband or wife is injured and you lose their companionship, their affection, or their services?
Georgia law accounts for these kinds of losses. “Loss of consortium” claims rise out of the loss of companionship, love, affection, aid, services, cooperation, sexual relations, and comfort. These types of claims are reserved for people who are legally married when their spouse is injured; common law marriages do not count. Spouses can usually bring these claims up to four years after the date their husband or wife was injured.
If an accident has left someone unable to have sex with their husband or wife due to their injuries, the spouse can make a claim for the value of the sex they can no longer have. Like other elements of loss of consortium claims, no one can put an exact dollar figure on the value of sex with their spouse, so it is up to the “enlightened conscience of impartial jurors” to determine the value if the case proceeds to trial.
Sex is not the only act of affection encompassed by loss of consortium claims. For instance, if your spouse can no longer give you back massages due to injuries to his or her hands, you could recover for the value of the massages. If your spouse can no longer talk to you about current affairs due to a traumatic brain injury they suffered, you could recover for the value of those conversations.
Household labor can also be considered as part of a loss of consortium claim. For example, you could get compensation if your husband or wife can no longer mow the lawn, wash clothes, cook meals, do the dishes, sweep the floors, or walk the dogs. As you can probably imagine, the list of ways an injury could affect someone’s ability to do household chores is very long. Similarly, the list of ways your life may be affected if your husband or wife is injured is also very long.
A spouse cannot sue for their husband’s or wife’s lost wages or loss of earning capacity as part of a loss of consortium action. Instead, if someone is unable to work (or is forced to work less, or work a lower-paying job) due to injuries caused by someone else, they must bring the claim for lost wages as part of their own claim.
As with other types of claims, juries can award money for past damages or future damages. Future damages are compensation for hardship that has not happened yet at the time of trial. For example, if an injury leaves a man unable to have sex for the rest of his life, a jury can award the man’s spouse money for all the time between the date of injury and the trial during which the spouse could not have sex with the injured man. A jury can also award the spouse money for all the time in the future that the spouse won’t be able to have sex with the injured man. However, loss of consortium only covers the joint lives of the spouses, and recovery for future loss of consortium is based on the shorter of the two lives of the spouses. So, in our example, if the jury decided the injured man would only live another three years after trial, the spouse would only receive future damages for three years of loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium claims can be legally and factually complex. An experienced attorney can tell you whether you have a valid claim and whether you should pursue it. Call the experienced lawyers at Rafi Law Firm or click here if you want to discuss a potential claim.