Under Maryland law and elsewhere, the loss of consortium means the loss of society, affection, assistance, and conjugal fellowship. It includes the loss or impairment of sexual relations. See Deems v. Western Maryland Ry., 247 Md. 95, 100 (1967).
A loss of consortium claim does not involve economic loss (like, for example, household services, which can be claimed separately). The jury determines the monetary value of a loss of consortium claim.
The Law on Loss of Consortium
A loss of consortium claim may arise when a seriously injured spouse cannot fully participate in the marriage due to the injury. Married couples have no loss of consortium claim for damages from personal injuries that predated their marriage. A few states have allowed for recovery for loss of consortium by a plaintiff who is not married to the victim if a stable and significant relationship can be proven. Maryland is not one of those states.
The jury must find a loss to the marriage due to the tort. A loss of consortium does not immediately follow from the fact that one spouse has been injured.
In Maryland, these claims are brought together in the same lawsuit. Unlike some other jurisdictions, termination of the injury claim also terminates the loss of consortium claim in Maryland. (Insurance adjusters who handle personal injury cases in some jurisdictions are often unaware of the Maryland law on this point and demand that the injured victim’s spouse agree to the settlement.)
Because a consortium claim is derivative of the injured spouse’s claim, a single cap on noneconomic damages applies to the whole action. In other words, you cannot backdoor the cap with a loss of consortium claims.
Examples of Loss of Consortium
Here are a few loss of consortium examples:
- Following a car accident that leaves her husband paralyzed, a wife is deprived of the ability to relish his companionship.
- In the aftermath of a slip-and-fall accident that results in her injury, a husband becomes unable to engage in sexual relations with his wife.
- As a consequence of medical malpractice leading to the birth defect of their child, a parent finds it challenging to establish a bond with their child.
- In a wrongful death truck accident claim, a child is deprived of the joy and affection they would have experienced from that parent.
Damages for Loss Consortium
A jury award or settlement amount for a loss of consortium claim mainly involves:
- Deprivation of companionship. love, and emotional support
- Deprivation of sexual relations
We will also talk below about loss of support claims. These are economic losses that are different from loss of consortium. They include:
- Deprivation of assistance with household and childcare responsibilities
- Deprivation of financial support
Practical Considerations Before Bringing Loss of Consortium
If you bring a loss of consortium claim before a jury in Maryland or elsewhere, you should proceed with some care.
Juror Skepticism of Some Claims
Many jurors ascribe to the notion that a spouse signs on “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.” Weak or vague loss of consortium claims can weaken the credibility of the injured spouse because the non-injured spouse is often the most effective witness on the damages to the injured spouse.
Credibility of Most Important Pain and Suffering Witness
Spouses often intimately understand each other’s lives, emotions, and physical capabilities. This allows them to speak credibly and in detail about the losses suffered, which may include changes in personality, mood, physical abilities, and the dynamics of their relationship.
More bluntly, it can come across as whining when people talk about their injuries. It just comes off better from someone else, and it is arguably better if that person is not seeking money themselves.
Are We Saying Don’t Bring a Loss of Consortium Claim?
We are not saying do not bring a loss of consortium claim. What our lawyers are saying is that when considering a loss of consortium claim, attorneys must strategize based on the specifics of the case. For some cases, the potential benefits outweigh the risks, while for others, it may be advisable to focus solely on the direct injury claims.
Conflict of Interest Concerns
While there is usually no harm in bringing a loss of consortium claim in your lawsuit, you want to reevaluate the claim before bringing it to a jury. Personal injury lawyers must also be aware that they equally represent both parties and proactively manage potential conflicts of interest.
How Does the Jury Award Loss of Consortium Damages?
In Maryland Pattern Civil Jury Instruction 10:9, the jury is told that a “husband and wife are entitled to compensation for wrongful damage to their marital relationship. The damages which justify compensation include their loss of companionship, affection, assistance, and loss or impairment of sexual relations.” From this instruction, the jury determines the dollar amount to place on the injury.
What If the Relationship Begins After the Injury?
Spouses must be married at the time of the accident to file a joint loss of consortium claim. But what if the victim marries after the date of their last exposure to toxic chemicals or asbestos, but before any symptoms appear?
The answer to this question is complicated. Maryland courts have held that to apply the Maryland noneconomic damages cap statute, a loss of consortium claim arises simultaneously as the underlying personal injury to the spouse who inhaled the toxic chemicals.
But Maryland’s Supreme Court has ruled that the loss of consortium claim travels with the date of manifestation of injury, not the date of exposure.
Is Loss of Consortium Different Than Loss of Support?
Loss of consortium is an entirely different animal than loss of support. Loss of consortium, as we have been saying, is a claim that can be brought by a spouse or other close family member of a person who has been injured. It is based on emotional pain. It is a claim for the loss of the companionship, love, affection, and sexual relations that the injured person’s spouse or family member has lost as a result of the injury or death.
Loss of support is an economic claim. This claim can be brought by a spouse or other dependent of a person who has been injured or died and relied on that person for economic aid. It is a claim for the financial support the injured person would have provided, but can no longer provide due to the injury or death.
Example Loss of Consortium Settlement Amounts and Jury Payouts
Below are examples of recent jury payouts and settlement amounts in Maryland in which damages were awarded for loss of consortium.
- $3,000,000 Verdict (2023 Maryland): A Severna Park man sustained a skull fracture and a traumatic brain injury, which resulted in a drastic personality change after being struck by a dislodged plug from a pressurized pipe while working on a crane barge. The accident led to lasting health effects, including volatile behavior and cognitive issues, ultimately leading to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder with manic features caused by the brain injury. In response to these life-altering injuries and the impact they had on his marriage, a jury awarded $5 million to the injured man and $3 million to his wife for loss of consortium. The significant award to the wife, 37.5% of the total $8 million verdict, highlights the jury’s strong empathy towards her situation and the injury’s substantial impact on the marital relationship.
- $112,500 Verdict (2023 Maryland): The plaintiff was in a parking lot loading groceries into the back of his vehicle when the defendant backed his vehicle out of a parking spot across the lane from the plaintiff. The defendant’s vehicle struck the plaintiff’s shopping cart, then struck the plaintiff and pinned him to his vehicle. The defendant allegedly fled the scene. The plaintiff reportedly suffered injuries to his back, left knee, and left elbow. The plaintiff’s wife, as an additional plaintiff, claimed loss of consortium.
- $90,916 Verdict (2022 Maryland): A 57-year-old woman was a passenger in a shuttle van that was traveling in an easterly direction when a vehicle operated by the defendant failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with the van, causing it to leave the roadway and strike a light pole. The woman reportedly suffered a traumatic brain injury, joint dysfunction, and cervical and lumbar pain. Her spouse asserts a separate claim for loss of consortium. The plaintiff was awarded $75,916 and the spouse got $15,000 for the loss of consortium claim.
- $55,925 Verdict (2022 Maryland): A man in Baltimore City sustained a right wrist fracture, resulting in permanent loss of function and pain when his vehicle was T-boned at an intersection by a vehicle driven by the defendant, an uninsured driver. The plaintiff and his wife claimed loss of consortium and asserted they were covered under a policy with defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. that provided uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. State Farm contested the claims.
- $2,500,000 Verdict (2017 Maryland): A patient suffering from symptoms related to high blood sugar was admitted to a hospital in Lanham, Maryland, and diagnosed with diabetes. Due to alleged improper fluid level monitoring, the patient experienced brain swelling, leading to rapid neurological decline and death within a week of hospitalization. A wrongful death lawsuit followed, culminating in a Prince George’s County jury verdict that included $500,000 for the patient’s spouse for loss of consortium, acknowledging the profound loss of companionship and emotional support. The verdict was part of a larger $2.5 million compensation package, covering future lost wages, pain and suffering, and funeral costs.
A related concept is solatium damages, which are awarded in wrongful death cases in Maryland for the death of a spouse; these may include damages for mental anguish, emotional pain, and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education where applicable. Md. Code Ann., Cts.& Jud. Proc. Section 3-904(d).
- Sample Loss of Consortium Complaint (language for a lawsuit or a demand letter)
- Maryland Personal Injury Attorney Help Center (help for lawyers bringing personal injury claims and lawsuits)
- What is the Value of My Case? (guide to determine the value of your case)
- Do you have a loss of consortium claim? Call our law firm at 800-553-8082 and speak with a lawyer to discuss your claim, or get a free consultation online.