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Personal Injury Lawsuits – The Definition of Loss of Consortium

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Posted on April 9, 2014

In Florida and many other states, loss of consortium is a legal phrase associated with personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Loss of consortium is a cause of action that family members of a person who is permanently injured or killed as a result of another party’s negligence may pursue. A surviving spouse, parents, children or siblings may pursue a civil claim for financial compensation. In general, any funds awarded as a result of a civil lawsuit verdict are intended to compensate the recipients for the lost companionship and diminished quality of life caused by the injured person’s permanent disability or a wrongful death victim’s absence.

The State of Florida and Loss of Consortium

With specific reference to Florida state law, consortium is more typically associated directly with the spouse or domestic partner of a personal injury or wrongful death victim. Florida’s application of loss of consortium mainly involves the services, comfort, society and attentions of a spouse or partner. This term refers specifically to the aspects of a marriage lost as a result of a catastrophic injury or death. More specifically, this includes a marital sexual relationship, companionship and general fellowship of a husband and wife to each other.

For most claims that specifically cite a loss of consortium, the surviving spouse sues the defendant for damages resulting from the inability to enjoy the same love, affection, and companionship that he/she enjoyed prior to the accident. The burden of proof is placed on the spouse who is filing the claim and may account for both past and future losses. Specific examples include:

  • Activities that the couple used to enjoy but can no longer enjoy together because of the injuries such as dancing, roller skating, or traveling
  • The spouse having to take on more housework or childcare responsibilities – including paying for daycare or a nanny
  • A spouse being required to take time off from work to stay home and care for the physical needs of the injured spouse
  • The spouse’s injuries causing a negative impact on the frequency or duration of intimacy

Loss of Consortium – Non-Economic Damages

In Florida courts, a “loss of consortium” award is considered as “non-economic” damages. This means this amount does not involve a precise monetary loss and possess no quantifiable cash value. However, certain components of the total award are quantifiable, such as the ongoing costs of childcare or a nanny. It is important to note that loss of consortium pertains more to a family’s relationship and not lost earning power. Lost earning power is generally treated by the courts as a separate matter.

Alternate Types of Loss of Consortium

While most cases of loss of consortium tend to be specific to the intimate relationship between a husband and wife, a loss of consortium claim can also be pursued in Florida courts by different parties who have been affected by the relative’s injuries such as:

  • Children
  • Guardians
  • Parents
  • Unmarried domestic partners

Under Florida law, a child is permitted to file a claim for loss of consortium of a parent, and vice versa. Most claims on the behalf of an injured or lost child typically cite the loss of affection and support, while claims involving an injured parent usually refer to the parent’s lost ability to care for the children and perform basic household maintenance and upkeep.