How can a personal injury attorney incorporate St. Valentine’s Day into a discussion about injuries from a car accident? Car accident law permeates almost any holiday. Car accident law and St. Valentine’s Day are tied by a discussion of the damages for loss of consortium.
When a spouse is injured in a car accident or other personal injury because of the negligence of another person, his or her spouse has a claim for loss of consortium. In car accident law, a claim for “loss of consortium” is for the loss by the claiming spouse of the companionship and fellowship of husband and wife and the right of each to the company, cooperation, and aid of the other in every conjugal relation. This means housework, paying the bills, enjoying dinner together, and yes, engaging in sexual relations. However, courts have held that “consortium” means much more than mere sexual relation as is “consists, also, of that affection, solace, comfort, companionship, conjugal life, fellowship, society, and assistance so necessary to a successful marriage.”
When a loved one is injured, it does impact the entire family. However, car accident law does not give children a right to a loss of consortium, only a spouse does. A loss of consortium is a direct injury to the spouse of the injured married partner and must be pleaded separately in any lawsuit. Since a loss of consortium claim is derivative to the other spouse’s injury claim, a trial judge errs in failing to reduce a spouse’s consortium claim by the amount the jury finds attributable to the injured spouse’s negligence.
However, can a jury return a zero verdict for the loss of consortium? The easy answer is yes. Florida courts have held that when a jury finds that one spouse has sustained injuries as a result of the negligence of a third party, an award of damages to the other spouse for loss of consortium is not automatic. Instead, in order to prevail on a claim for loss of consortium, the claiming spouse must present competent testimony concerning the impact that the incident has had on the marital relationship. In a recent case, the jury’s decision to award zero to the non-injured spouse in a car accident was reversed because the Plaintiffs did present substantial unrebutted testimony concerning the adverse effect that the wife’s injuries had on their marital life so the husband was entitled to an award of at least nominal damages on his claim. The court in that case held that the undisputed facts showed that following the accident, the injured wife’s relationship with her husband deteriorated, her ability to contribute to the couple’s income by working outside the home stopped, she became unable to accomplish common household chores without the assistance of her husband, and her injuries were significant enough that she underwent a series of injections and ultimately decided to seek surgical treatment. How a jury could return a zero verdict is unexplainable to me.
If you or your loved one is injured in a car accident, it is important that you discuss each of your rights with an attorney who understands car accident law and the different damages after an automobile accident.
Enjoy your consortium this St. Valentine’s Day weekend!!
Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those injured in car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and other types of personal injury matters. His Clearwater law firm – Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.