If your spouse died or was injured in an accident, Missouri law may allow you to seek “loss of consortium” damages from the person responsible for the accident. Typically, the damages are available when a spouse was severely injured, permanently disabled, or lost their life.
Loss of consortium occurs when an injured spouse can no longer give their spouse the love, companionship, comfort, services, support, or intimate relations that they provided prior to the accident or death.
These losses take many forms, including:
This is the historical source of loss of consortium damages. Sometimes, an injury may cause a person to lose sexual function. If the injury victim is married, the non-injured spouse may be able to sue the responsible party for loss of intimate relations.
Loss of Companionship
An injury might prevent a person from providing the same level of companionship to their spouse that they offered before their accident. These damages are known as loss of companionship.
For example, say a married couple took a peaceful walk in the foothills behind their house every morning before work. However, one spouse is paralyzed in a car accident and is no longer available to participate in this morning ritual. The non-injured spouse has experienced a loss of companionship.
Loss of Services
Many married couples share the household chores and services. A spouse’s accident injury may preclude them from contributing to household work, resulting in a loss of services to the non-injured spouse.
For example, say that a spouse is severely injured during a motorcycle wreck. During their recovery, the injured spouse cannot help take care of the house, make the bed, mop the floors, or take the kids to school. These inconveniences represent a loss of services to the non-injured spouse.
Loss of Support
If one spouse gets severely injured and is unable to work, they may no longer be able to help support the family. These damages are known as loss of support.
What Damages Can I Receive For Loss of Consortium?
Damages for the loss are up to the jury.
When considering how much damages to award to a claimant, the jury may consider:
- The stability of the marriage before the incident
- Any changes in the marital relationship after the incident
- Expected recovery time or reduced life expectancy of the victim
- Contributions the injured or deceased victim party made to the household prior to the incident
- The victim’s financial contributions to the marriage.
While the amount of damages is generally up to the jury, a court may modify the award to ensure that it is fair.
Who Can Sue For Loss of Consortium?
Traditionally, only spouses could claim loss of consortium damages. However, over the past few decades, many states have expanded the scope of potential claimants. Some of these include the parents of an injured child, the child of an injured parent, siblings, and even unmarried couples.
Missouri has taken a middle-of-the-road approach. Generally, the scope of claimants has not been expanded. However, there is an exception for wrongful death.
Missouri’s wrongful death statute allows the following to file a claim: “the spouse or children or the surviving lineal descendants of any deceased children, natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate, or by the father or mother of the deceased, natural or adoptive.”
Under the statute, the damages that may be sought include “losses [of] services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and support.”
Therefore, a surviving spouse, parent of a deceased child, or child of a deceased parent may file a claim for loss of consortium. As with all loss of consortium claims, “the jury has extraordinarily wide discretion in determining the amount of recovery in wrongful death cases.”
Caps on Liability
Often, there are limitations, or caps, on the amount of damages that may be awarded for loss of consortium damages. However, the rules surrounding these caps are exceedingly complicated in Missouri. They depend on the type of claim (e.g., medical malpractice, against the government, or other). The rules also depend on the severity of the injury.
Finally, some of the caps are tied to inflation, so they change each year. Due to the complexity of the law in this area, it is recommended that you consult an experienced personal injury attorney for information.
What is the Time Limit For A Loss of Consortium Claim?
Loss of Consortium claims have a statute of limitations. This refers to the time you have to file a claim after the injury or death occurred. In Missouri, the statute of limitations is generally five years.
Loss of Consortium Lawyers
If your spouse, parent, or child has been severely injured or killed due to the wrongful actions of another, you may have a claim for loss of consortium. Our experienced attorneys are available to zealously seek the compensation you deserve for your loss so reach out to our law office today.