In personal injury cases, the injured party may be entitled to compensation for damages caused by the accident and their injury. However, a spouse may also have a claim against the at-fault party for loss of consortium. An award for loss of consortium damages is separate from an award for damages claimed by the injured spouse.
Defining a Loss of Consortium
Maryland personal injury laws recognize the impact an injury has on the victim. Therefore, victims may seek compensation for economic damages, such as out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and medical bills. Also, the victim may receive compensation for non-economic damages (pain and suffering).
However, Maryland also recognizes the impact of a victim’s injury on their spouse.
Injuries sustained by a victim can impact numerous areas of life for the couple, including the ability to:
- Engage in intimate relations
- Take care of the home
- Provide childcare for the couple’s children
- Conceive and bear children
- Engage in a loving, caring, and supportive relationship
- Provide comfort, moral support, companionship, and guidance
A loss of consortium claim is a type of non-economic damage. Therefore, valuing the loss a spouse experiences because of injury to the other spouse can be challenging.
How Does a Spouse File a Loss of Consortium Claim in Maryland?
Under Maryland law, the parties must be legally married for a spouse to file a loss of consortium claim. The loss of consortium claim is included with the lawsuit filed by the injured victim (plaintiff).
A jury must find that a tort against the plaintiff caused damage to the marriage. In other words, the spouses must prove that the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. If the plaintiff cannot prove that the defendant caused their injury, the non-injured spouse cannot recover compensation for loss of consortium.
Furthermore, terminating the injury claim also stops the loss of consortium claim. Therefore, if the plaintiff agrees to a settlement offer, the loss of consortium claim ends.
How Do Jurors Decide How Much to Award for Loss of Consortium?
The jurors are the triers of fact. They must find that the plaintiff’s spouse suffered an actual loss because the plaintiff sustained an injury. Merely claiming you are entitled to compensation because your spouse was injured in a car crash is insufficient. You must “show” the jurors how the injury adversely affected your marriage.
Evidence you might present to the jury to prove a loss of consortium claim includes:
- The injury prevents you from having sexual relations with your spouse
- The plaintiff is unable to perform household chores, so you must take on that role in addition to caring for your children, working, and helping your spouse
- The injury severely restricts your spouse from being an active participant in raising your children by limiting their role as an educator, caregiver, etc.
- Your spouse can no longer express emotions such as love, appreciation, etc.
- The injury resulted in a condition that prevents your spouse from attending family, work, and social engagements and functions with you
Judges instruct jurors that spouses are entitled to compensation for wrongful damage to their marital relationship. However, jurors decide from the evidence presented in court whether they believe the non-injured spouse experienced a loss of consortium. The jurors also determine the dollar amount to place on the loss.
Losses Awarded in Wrongful Death Claims
In wrongful death cases, a spouse, parent, or child may claim specific damages under Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. Section 3-904(d) for:
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of society
- Parental care
- Marital care
- Filial care
These damages are only available if the family member proves that the defendant caused their loved one’s death. The claim for solatium damages can help compensate a spouse who might not experience a substantial financial loss from the death of a spouse. Still, the impact of the spouse’s death has a tremendous effect on the surviving spouse’s life.
What Types of Injuries Could Result in a Loss of Consortium Claim in Maryland?
Catastrophic injuries and wrongful death generally give rise to loss of consortium claims.
Examples of injuries that might negatively impact a marital relationship include, but are not limited to:
- Permanent brain damage
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Loss of limbs and amputations
- Emotional trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic depression
- Loss of bodily functions
Many other injuries could impact the relationship between spouses. Medical experts often provide detailed medical opinions to support a loss of consortium claim. For example, the doctor may describe how a person suffering from brain damage cannot engage in a loving, supportive relationship because the damage is to the area of the brain that regulates emotions.
Contact a Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyer For Help With a Loss of Consortium Claim
You and your family deserve fair compensation for all damages caused by an accident and injury. A Baltimore personal injury attorney will pursue every legal claim to recover the maximum value for your personal injury claim, including loss of consortium.