Loss of Consortium Basics

By Harold D. Park

In a personal injury case, the injury suffered by a party may be so severe, that the injured party's spouse or registered domestic partner may have an independent cause of action for loss of consortium. A claim for loss of consortium entitles one to be compensated for the loss of their spouse/registered domestic partner's companionship and services, which includes the loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, affection, enjoyment of sexual relations, and the ability to have children.

Who May Bring an Action for Loss of Consortium?

In California, the cause of action is only recognized for spouses and registered domestic partners of the injured party. One cannot bring the cause of action arising out of a parent-child relationship, which means that parents cannot bring the action for an injury suffered by a child nor can children bring the action for an injury suffered by a parent. Also, mere cohabitants of the injured party may not bring an action.

What Can You Recover?

A spouse or registered domestic partner may recover money damages for the shorter of the following time periods:

  1. the period of the incapacity;
  2. if the incapacity is permanent, the injured spouse/registered domestic partner 's life expectancy, as measured from just prior to the injury (i.e., as if the injury had never occurred); or
  3. the non-injured spouse/registered domestic partner's life expectancy.

Thus, a loss of consortium cause of action allows for money damages for present and any future loss that is sufficiently certain to occur.

What Can You Not Recover?

There are restrictions as to what one can recover in a loss of consortium cause of action. The following are some items that are not recoverable:

  • A claim based on an injury suffered before the marriage or registered domestic partnership.
  • A claim based on the ordinary embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety and other distress that one inevitably might experience when his or her spouse or registered domestic partner suffers physical injury.
  • Loss of consortium damages for any items for which the victim received compensation.

Harold D. Park is an Associate with Kring & Chung, LLP's Irvine, CA office. He can be contacted at (949) 261-7700 or hpark@kringandchung.com.