If your husband or wife is seriously injured in a car accident, it can have a major impact on your marriage and family beyond just the medical bills involved. Stress, upheaval of the family structure, and loss of intimacy — the law has a term for this: loss of consortium. And if your injured spouse files a personal injury claim, the law allows you to seek financial compensation for this type of loss.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is what happens when your spouse is injured and they can no longer participate in your life together in the way they once did. This can include the loss of physical and emotional intimacy or involve the ways you divided up responsibilities for breadwinning or caring for your children that have now been disrupted.
Suppose you and your family were injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. You and your children managed to escape with only minor injuries, but your husband was injured far more seriously. Before the accident, he was the main source of income for the family, but his injuries resulted in a year of recovery before he could even think of working again. Even after he recovered, damage to his spinal column made it impossible for him to continue in his previous career.
During this time, all the family responsibilities fell upon you because he could no longer participate in the family’s life the same way he previously had. The social life you shared with your spouse is gone, and perhaps you have even taken on the role of a caretaker. To make matters even worse, the intimacy you once shared has been rendered impossible both by the physical injury and the new relationship that has evolved after the accident. Nothing is the same, and the impact it has on your marriage may be more than it can survive.
Or suppose your wife was injured in a serious accident involving a tired truck driver late at night. She handled everything to do with your four children while supporting the family financially as you finished up your degree. While she struggles to recover from the paralysis that could prevent her from ever working again, you are now solely responsible for the care of the children and making sure there is enough income to pay the bills. Your pursuit of a degree is put on hold as you re-enter the workforce.
Again, the accident made it impossible for your wife to participate in life the way she did before she was paralyzed. You are far too busy for activities with friends and your stress levels are often at unmanageable levels. Your wife is unspeakably frustrated as she sees you struggling but is powerless to help. And with all of the additional stress, the two of you are no longer intimate; how could you have the time or energy?
The impact of this kind of loss and how it fundamentally changes a partnership between two people falls under the category of loss of consortium. A loss of consortium claim represents a request for monetary compensation related to the loss of companionship and services of your injured spouse.
When Loss of Consortium Applies to a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In the state of Pennsylvania, if your spouse is injured due to the negligence of a third party, then you can bring a loss of consortium claim for monetary compensation along with a personal injury claim. Here are some of the key factors that are involved with proving loss of consortium:
- How long you have been married
- The life expectancy of both you and your spouse
- The strength of your marriage before the accident
- Whether you were intimate before the accident
- The division of labor between you and your spouse before and after the accident
Such factors can be proven using evidence that includes interviews with you and your spouse, family members, and friends.
How Loss of Consortium is Included in a Lawsuit
Loss of consortium claims are derived from the personal injury claim of the spouse who was not injured and, because of this, such a claim cannot be filed without your injured spouse first bringing a personal injury claim. It also means that your loss of consortium claim is going to be subject to the same insurance policy limits that your spouse is making a claim on for their personal injury case.
Because loss of consortium is a secondary claim, the insurance company is supposed to include the loss of consortium claim under your injured spouse’s policy limits. However, this is where things get rather interesting. If your injured spouse settles with the insurance company, the settlement agreement must make it clear whether or not you will still seek to settle the loss of consortium claim. If the settlement offered by the insurance company is not satisfactory, you can still file a lawsuit for the loss of consortium claim.
Finally, keep in mind that there is a two-year statute of limitations on filing a loss of consortium claim.
In Pennsylvania, the law recognizes that when your spouse is seriously injured in an accident there can be repercussions beyond financial ones. Loss of consortium claims allow you to seek compensation for changes in how your spouse can participate in life after a serious accident, accounting for the upheaval that results. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you file a loss of consortium claim and gather the necessary evidence to demonstrate the impact that your husband or wife’s injuries had on your marriage and your family.
Donaghue & Labrum
The personal injury lawyers at Donaghue & Labrum are committed to helping you receive the compensation you deserve under the law. If you or your spouse were seriously injured in an accident, we can help with a personal injury lawsuit and a loss of consortium claim. Contact us today to set up an appointment for a consultation!