What Is Loss of Consortium? | Accident Lawyer In Panama City
Next in the series on damages, we discuss loss of consortium. Strictly speaking, loss of consortium is a claim filed by an accident victim’s spouse to compensate the spouse for the loss of the victim’s services, comforts, and companionship — and yes, that includes the disruption to couple’s sex life.
Ask 100 families how they manage their family life, and you will get 100 different answers (actually, you might get 200 different answers if you ask the couple separately). Following an accident, that family life is disrupted in many ways. Where previously one partner worked and the other stayed-at-home, or where they both worked but one partner regularly took the children to school, or however their lives were arranged, in the new normal that follows an accident those previous arrangements no longer apply.
The partner that feels the direct and immediate effect of that new normal, however, is the victim’s spouse. While the accident victim must focus on recovering, their spouse must pick up the slack in all the other family responsibilities that the victim cannot perform — bread winner AND child care AND nurse AND cook AND shopping AND any of the dozens of other tasks that no one thinks about most of the time.
When all that shifts onto one person’s shoulders, the effect can be devastating. Even though the victim’s spouse may not have any injuries at all, their life is not the same. This is the nature of damages for loss of consortium — it compensates the spouse for the changes they have to endure after an accident.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SEX….
Many people think — including a lot of lawyers, if I’m honest —that loss of consortium exists because the injured party can’t perform sexually. As I explained above, that is not the case. However, sex is one of the many things that changes after an accident.
In any happy, functional marriage, there is going to be a happy, functional sex life (well… one hopes). That sex life is going to be unique to that couple — normal for one marriage will not look like normal in anyone else’s marriage. Whatever the couple’s sex life was before the accident, it will be altered for some time after. Through no fault of their own, the couple is now prevented from enjoying their happy, functional sex life — just like they no longer share the same child-rearing or bread-winning responsibilities.
The loss of consortium is about sex in the same way it’s about child-rearing or bread-winning. What this kind of damage award is really about is unwanted change. No one wants to experience a life-altering injury — and that includes the victim’s spouse. Their life is changed too.
Next up, in the series on damages — Punitive damages: what they are, and what they are not. Stay tuned to our Panama City Accident Lawyer blog!