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Compensation for Loss of Consortium in California

Loss of Consortium in California: Personal Injury and Wrongful Death

Loss of consortium is essentially defined as the loss of companionship, moral support and even intimacy after a wrongful injury to a spouse or a registered domestic partner.

Loss of consortium falls under the category of non-economic compensatory damages that a plaintiff may be entitled to. These damages are intended to compensate an individual for the loss of their spouse’s — or partner’s — regular relations and companionship.

According to California law, loss of consortium is:

  1. Loss of sexual relations or the ability to have children.
  2. Loss of companionship, love, comfort, care, protection, assistance, affection, moral support, etc.

Proving Loss of Consortium

There are 4 key elements a spouse — or a registered domestic partner — must prove in a loss of consortium claim:

  1. The plaintiff and the aggrieved individual were either lawfully married or were valid registered domestic partners when the injury took place.
  2. Negligence or a wrongful act were the cause of a spouse or partner’s injury.
  3. The plaintiff suffered the loss of a spouse’s or partner’s consortium.
  4. The loss of consortium resulted from the defendant’s wrongful act.

Proving loss of consortium is complex and uncomfortable because it will focus on an injured spouse’s new limitations and changes, especially if loss of sexual relations is alleged.

Recoverable Damages 

An individual who loses a consortium of their spouse or domestic partner in the state of California may be entitled to recover non-economic damages. There is no real standard for determining loss of consortium damages and a jury may choose a reasonable amount to correlate with the seriousness of an injury. Naturally, the more long-lasting an injury is, the greater the award.

Damages That Are Not Recoverable

Recovery for loss of consortium will not include economic losses. This means that losses due to an injured spouse’s lost earning capacity or medical bills will not be covered.

Furthermore, damages for loss of consortium will not include:

  1. Personal care, such as a nursing service, for the injured spouse
  2. Loss of financial support that would have come from the injured spouse
  3. Loss of earnings a plaintiff suffered  due to no longer working in order to help take care of their injured spouse
  4. Domestic household services to replace the services that were originally performed by an injured spouse

What if a Spouse’s Injuries Are Permanent?

Available damages may extend until the injured spouse’s anticipated end of life. In these cases, life expectancy will be measured as it was before the spouse’s injury.

The reasoning behind this is for surviving spouses not to be punished because an injury shortened their partner’s life expectancy. For example, a jury may choose to award a spouse a much larger amount of damages for both past and future loss of consortium, regardless of whether an injury significantly shortened a victim’s life expectancy.

What Is a Valid and Lawful Marriage?

A plaintiff must prove a valid marriage or a registered domestic partnership existed at the time of the injury. If the spouse was injured prior to marrying or registering as a domestic partner , a plaintiff will typically not have a case for loss of consortium.

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