Loss of consortium refers to the loss or impairment of the intangible benefits of a relationship. When it is found that loss of consortium is caused by a tortfeasor, the victims’ loved ones may be able to recover reasonable damages arising from their loss of consortium. Loss of consortium claims were created in recognition that severe injury or death of a married person would cause great injury to their spouse.
Who may claim a loss of consortium?
The ability to sue for loss of consortium is governed separately by each state. Typically, states have opted to heavily restrict consortium claims. Siblings, friends, and extended family typically have no right to recover for loss of consortium, even if they were very close to the victim.
Traditionally, consortium claims only applied to:
- A widow or widower whose spouse was wrongly killed.
- A wife or husband whose spouse was severely injured by a tortfeasor.
Unmarried couples are typically not able to bring a consortium claim, regardless of the length of time they have been together or the nature of their relationship.
Many jurisdictions now allow for parents to recover for loss of filial consortium, meaning the loss of consortium from their child. However, many states only allow filial consortium claims where the child was fatally injured. A minority of states also allow children to make a loss of consortium claim in instances where their parent(s) were wrongfully killed.
What intangible benefits are considered consortium?
Consortium includes all of the non-monetary benefits of a relationship. For married couples, it includes emotional benefits a spouse may provide, such as companionship, comfort, affection, and love. It also includes the physical benefits a spouse may provide, such as services (housework, cooking), shared activities (going on walks together) and sexual relationships. When any of these benefits are lost or their quality is reduced by a wrongful injury, it is considered a loss of consortium.
For other types of relationships, such as a parent-child relationship, consortium is limited to the emotional and physical benefits normally associated with that type of relationship.
Consortium does not include the tangible financial benefits, such as wages or income. While financial dependents may recover for these losses, they are not typically included in a loss of consortium claim.