After a car accident, it’s not uncommon to have devastating, life-changing medical needs. Health consequences after an accident can include physical changes that make it impossible for a person to work a job, care for themselves or their home, children, and pets, or do any of the things they used to do. When this happens, loss of consortium can result. Loss of consortium is a serious potential consequence of an accident that a car accident attorney in Houston, TX can help you make a claim for.
What Does “Loss of Consortium” Mean?
Most personal injury claims are brought by the victim of an accident, but in this case, the spouse of a victim can bring a claim for loss of consortium. The general rule is that a spouse can bring a separate lawsuit against the person who injured his or her spouse if the injury from the underlying incident caused the marriage to be disrupted or damaged. The disruption must be caused by physical injury: mental anguish by itself is not considered a valid reason for a claim by Texas courts.
Specifically, the non-injured spouse needs to have suffered:
- A loss of companionship
- An unwanted change in marital status
- Loss of the ability to do things together (traveling, biking, etc)
- Loss of the ability to bear or conceive child(ren)
- Loss of a sexual relationship
Loss of consortium for married couples is most common, but there is one other type of consortium case recognized by Texas law in the case of injury after a car accident:
Texas law also allows children to file a loss of parental consortium claim if a parent has suffered a catastrophic injury. Obviously, the loss of a sexual relationship is not part of a claim here, but there can still be a loss of vital companionship essential to a child’s well-being. Among the damages that can be considered are loss of parental love, protection, emotional support, services, companionship, care, and society.
The court will consider many factors here, including the children’s age, the nature of their relationship with their parents, their emotional and physical characteristics, and the availability of other consortium-giving relationships for the child.
Who Can’t File a Claim
Whether the victim of a car accident has died or suffered catastrophic, life-changing injuries, there are certain entities who may not file any type of loss of consortium claim. This includes friends, siblings, and grandparents.
Loss of Consortium and Wrongful Death
If a victim dies in a car accident, a spouse, child, or, in this case only, a parent, may also be able to bring a loss of consortium claim in a wrongful death lawsuit. Talk to your lawyer about options here. Parents cannot bring a claim if a child has only been injured but survives, even if the injury is catastrophic and even if the child is in a coma.
The Intent of the Law
As the name implies, loss of consortium is intended to compensate people who have been injured or physically harmed through the negligence of a third party. Losses of this nature are usually classified as “general” damages. In this category, you will also find pain and suffering damages.
The reason for putting the loss of consortium and pain and suffering in similar categories is that both claims have something in common: it’s very difficult to put a monetary value on the claim. The victims have suffered real damages, but no amount of cash can actually restore the relationship. This makes it more difficult to calculate loss of consortium claims than other types of personal injury, making it essential to have a car accident attorney on your side. In Texas, most loss of consortium claims must be filed within two years.
Reaching Out to a Car Accident Attorney in Houston, TX
If you need to bring a loss of consortium claim, it’s vitally important to contact a car accident attorney who knows the laws in your local area. As mentioned above, loss of consortium is hard to quantify. If you need to bring a claim for a broken leg, this is fairly straightforward: you gather the medical evidence and use your bills, wage stubs, and other receipts to show exactly what the broken leg cost you in real monetary terms. With loss of consortium, the situation is more difficult.
Proving the Claim
Proving a change to a marital relationship can be very difficult, especially when you can be certain that lawyers for the insurance company covering the at-fault driver in a car accident will be digging into your past, trying to find evidence that the marriage was already in trouble. For a loss of consortium claim to succeed, you would need to demonstrate four things:
- There was a valid, legal relationship
- You suffered a loss of consortium because of injury to your partner
- Your partner was injured due to the negligence of a third party
- The loss of consortium is due to the ongoing injuries to your partner
Expecting a Response
The other side will attempt to prove that the accident is not the cause of your loss of consortium. They may do this by claiming your relationship was already poor and would have changed even if the accident had never happened. They may also make an attempt to say that you still have a good relationship but are colluding together to make money. You can expect the other party to dig into questions like these:
- How long have you been in a legal relationship?
- What kind of things did you do together before the accident?
- What was your standard of living before the accident?
- What were your living arrangements before the accident?
- Did you have a stable marriage?
- Is there any history of abuse in your relationship, on either side?
Your lawyer will be prepared for all the tricks the other side can bring and will help you prepare for the questions you’ll be asked. Listen to your lawyer’s advice about posting on social media, discussing your situation with friends and family members, taking on a new relationship, or making any changes to living arrangements or jobs.
Because a loss of consortium claim can become very personal, there are some cases where couples prefer not to file, even if they have a valid claim. Only a skilled car accident attorney can help you make this decision. With your lawyer, you have attorney-client privilege, meaning you can safely discuss the most intimate details of your marriage and current situation without fear that it will become public knowledge or be used against you. Your lawyer will be able to tell you exactly what details the other side will dig up and how they will try to use it, allowing you to make an informed decision about the best step forward.
What Kind of Damages Can Be Recovered?
A plaintiff can recover damages for loss of consortium both for past losses and future projected losses. A loss of consortium claim may be part of a larger personal injury claim, so expect to work with your lawyer to decide how strong each aspect of your personal injury claim is and whether making a loss of consortium claim strengthens or weakens the overall claim.
As with nearly any personal injury claim, it’s impossible to give a general estimate of how much money you may be able to recover. It’s important for you to talk to a lawyer directly. Once your lawyer has reviewed the specifics of your case and the evidence available, he or she will be able to give you a much clearer understanding of what to expect.
To learn more about whether your loss of consortium claim in Houston, TX should go forward, talk to us at Houston Injury Lawyers today to get started.