What is Loss of Consortium?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

A term that is heard in the world of personal injury law, that will occasionally draw a snicker, is the term, “loss of consortium.”

Let’s dive in to what this term means.  First, the word, “consortium,” means companionship with one’s spouse.  How does that fit in to a personal injury case though?

If a husband is driving down the road, gets rear-ended by another vehicle, experiences significant damages, has to have surgery, is out of work, and may be on bed rest for a while, this certainly would alter the wife’s lifestyle.  She would transform from a companion in a marriage, to a caretaker.  To take the husband’s damages even further, perhaps the wreck is so bad that the husband ends up on life support permanently.  Then the wife would never stop becoming anything but a caretaker for her husband.

In this situation, the husband obviously has a claim for damages against the other driver for the injuries he sustained.  However, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 25-1-106, the wife has her own separate claim against the other driver for a “loss of consortium,” even though she was not in the car when the wreck happened.

Why does the spouse have her own claim against the other driver for damages?  Because she has experienced a loss of consortium, or loss of companionship, as a result of her husband’s injuries.

Now why would people snicker about this term?  Well, some people hear that term, and associate that with the husband not being able to have sexual relations with his wife anymore; and the wife, is making a claim for that loss of marital intimacy.  That is a misnomer, however, because, while the claim does include that part of a couple’s relationship, the claim includes so much more than that.  A loss of consortium claim encompasses all acts of companionship, love and affection that the wife no longer gets to experience.

So, in our scenario, if the husband, is in fact, in a vegetative state for the remainder of his days, or he had died, the wife’s loss of consortium claim will be significant, because she will have forever lost his companionship, love and affection.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.

 

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