Damages In Personal Injury Cases – Loss Of Consortium
In addition to the injuries suffered by the person bringing a lawsuit, there are a number of individuals related to the injured party who may be eligible for what is called an action for “loss of consortium”. In addition to medical damages, lost wages, and pain and suffering, what are often called economic or general damages, there are non-economic damages that may be brought by a spouse, companion, children and others, and those damages sought are called other non-economic damages.
The loss of consortium means that in addition to the injured party, the above-described individuals who are related to the injured party may bring a separate cause of action against an intentional, or negligent party. This action can also be brought when the injured party dies. There are statutory limitations on the amount of recovered non-economic damages (financial limitation).
Here are examples of the types of damages in loss of consortium cases: loss of the services of the injured spouse for the non-injured spouse including but not limited to companionship, housekeeping, intimacy, sharing of parenting services, and caretaking; and for the children or parents that the physically injured party is unable to provide as much of services, affection, parenting care and nurturing to the children or affection and services to parents of the physically injured party as has been provided previously before the physical injuries.
Clients often, when being advised of the discovery process, are reluctant to discuss intimacy as part of their claim for loss of consortium. The discovery process will enable the defendant’s attorney to ask how often were the parties intimate before the accident and how that intimacy has declined. The discovery process also allows the defense attorney to ask were the parties estranged from one another, living together, planning a divorce or had the parties retained an attorney for a divorce? How well did the parties get along? Were they separated?
Care must be taken when choosing a court in which to file suit. In the district court, the maximum recovery at the time of the publishing of this article is $30,000. In the circuit court, non-economic damages are capped at $850,000. However, if the lawsuit exceeds $15,000 in the district court, the opponent can request a jury trial because many circuit court judges are more conservative than district court judges and juries are more conservative when making decisions on the amount of damages . There are many benefits to having the case tried in the district court. They include that we do not have to bring the physician to district court to testify at a cost of several thousand dollars or have an expert say at court that the bills are reasonable when the amount sought of recovery is $15,000 or less and the time from filing a district court suit to completion of the trial could be as short as 90 to 150 days. With circuit court, the time from filing date to trial date could be 15 months.
Where loss of consortium is available, two cases could be filed, one on behalf of the physically injured party and the other for loss of consortium filed by the injured party’s spouse, companion, children or others. Each case would be for $15,000 but if the two cases as combined to a total of $30,000, insurance companies will request a jury trial. Even though there are two cases, the trials for both cases would be held on the same day.
Fred Antenberg has practiced over 30 years resolving both circuit and district court cases in Howard County and surrounding counties in Maryland. Call Fred for a free initial consultation at 410 730 4404.