California personal injury accidents impact more than just the injured victim. The victim’s spouse also suffers. Following an accident, the spouse of an injured victim often suffers from emotional distress, lost companionship, and the burden of additional responsibilities in the home.
California law recognizes this detrimental impact and allows spouses and domestic partners to recover loss of consortium damages for their suffering. The following are answers to the most common questions our California personal injury lawyers get about loss of consortium claims.
Table of Contents
- What Does Loss of Consortium Mean in Legal Terms in California?
- Can a Domestic Partner Recover Loss of Consortium Damages in California?
- What Damages Can a Spouse Recover?
- What Damages Are Not Recoverable?
- What Are the Elements of a Loss of Consortium Case in California?
- Who Cannot Recover for Loss of Consortium in California?
- Need Help with Your Case? Get Gomez.
WHAT DOES LOSS OF CONSORTIUM MEAN IN LEGAL TERMS IN CALIFORNIA?
Loss of consortium means the lost companionship and services of a spouse or domestic partner that results from the spouse/partner’s injury. For example, an injured spouse may no longer be able to participate in previously shared recreational activities such as walks, hikes, and bike rides. In California, the spouse or domestic partner of the injured person can pursue loss of consortium damages, in other words, monetary compensation, for their losses.
Proving loss of consortium can be complex, but an experienced personal injury attorney like the ones on the Gomez Trial Attorneys team can help. Contact us to set up a free case evaluation.
CAN A DOMESTIC PARTNER RECOVER LOSS OF CONSORTIUM DAMAGES IN CALIFORNIA?
Yes, California Family Code § 297.5 gives registered domestic partners the same rights, protections, and benefits as married spouses. This means that since spouses can recover for loss of consortium for personal injury accidents that occurred in California, domestic partners can as well. If the accident occurred outside of California, the law of the location of the accident will probably apply. It may not allow recovery for domestic partners (even if the partners live in California).
WHAT DAMAGES CAN A SPOUSE RECOVER?
In California, a spouse or domestic partner can recover loss of consortium damages. These are non-economic damages, meaning they are subjective and cannot be objectively calculated. A spouse can recover for past and future:
- Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support
- Loss of enjoyment of sexual relations
- Loss of the ability to have children
CACI Loss of Consortium provides that there is no fixed standard for determining the monetary amount of loss of consortium damages. Instead, jury members “must use [their] judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.”
WHAT DAMAGES ARE NOT RECOVERABLE?
Economic damages, or monetary losses, are not recoverable through a loss of consortium claim in California. Examples of economic damages that cannot be recovered as part of a California loss of consortium claim include:
- The uninjured partner or spouse’s lost wages because of giving up employment to care for the spouse
- Reduction in household income due to the injured spouse’s reduced wages
- Compensation for providing nursing or home care services to the injured spouse or partner
- Expense of hiring services (e.g., cleaning and laundry services) to replace the services the injured spouse would have provided
It should be noted that while the uninjured spouse/partner may not recover economic damages for their loss of consortium claim, the injured person may be able to recover economic damages as part of a personal injury claim brought in their own name.
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A LOSS OF CONSORTIUM CASE IN CALIFORNIA?
The following four elements must be proven to prevail on a loss of consortium claim:
- a valid and lawful marriage or registered domestic partnership between the plaintiff and the person injured at the time of the injury;
- negligence or another tortious act caused the spouse or domestic partner’s injuries;
- loss of consortium suffered by the plaintiff; and
- the loss was proximately caused by the defendant’s act.
Vanhooser v. Superior Court (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 921, 927 (142 Cal.Rptr.3d 230).
WHO CANNOT RECOVER FOR LOSS OF CONSORTIUM IN CALIFORNIA?
In California, loss of consortium claims are currently limited to spouses and registered domestic partners. No other relationship supports a loss of consortium claim. This means that cohabitants, children, grandchildren, parents, and grandparents may not bring loss of consortium claims.
NEED HELP WITH YOUR CASE? GET GOMEZ.
If you or your spouse or domestic partner have been seriously injured in a personal injury accident in California, our team of experienced personal injury attorneys is here to help. We pride ourselves on our strong case results and the caring approach we take to working with clients.