Can a Husband or Wife Recover Damages in Their Spouse's Personal Injury Claim?
February 20, 2014
What does California Law say about recovery for injury to a husband or wife by the spouse who was not physically harmed but, is certainly suffering from having a spouse who is no longer able to do those things that they were able to do prior to the incident? Is it possible to obtain a money damages award if you were not directly hurt but, your spouse was injured and this severely impacted your life? As a personal injury attorney in the Golden State that has represented hundreds of married persons in the past 18 years, this is a question that I am frequently asked. The simple answer is YES. Under CA law, a spouse is entitled to be compensated for the disruption to their lifestyle caused by the personal injury or wrongful death of their husband or wife as follows:California Personal Injury Law on Recovery for Injured Spouse
California Civil Jury Instruction 3920 states that if an award is made to a personal injury victim and that victim is married, the jury must also decide how much money will reasonably compensate the victim’s husband or wife for “the loss of companionship and services” (also known as “loss of consortium”) including:
- The loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support; and
- The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations [or the ability to have children].
The law further provides that money damages must be awarded not only for what the husband or wife has suffered to date as of the time of a jury verdict but, also for the harm that they will sustain in the future. Furthermore, this is considered a “non-economic” damage award (i.e. separate and apart and in addition to any amount awarded for out of pocket costs like medical expenses or lost wages). Because it is “general” damages, the jury must simply decide an amount without reducing that amount to “present cash value” (i.e. the value as of present day).What is the Standard for Determining a Fair Amount to Award A Husband or Wife of an Personal Injury Victim?
Just like with the award of “pain and suffering” and related “non-economic” or “general” damages to the actual, injured person, there is no standard formula for calculating an amount that is “reasonable” to compensate the spouse. In fact, the portion of the instruction read to the trier of fact on figuring this sum states as follows:
“No fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of these damages. You must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.”Why is it Crucial To Retain A Quality California Personal Injury Lawyer If You Are the Husband or Wife of An Accident Victim?
Obtaining good sound legal advice from a Counselor at Law is important for both the person injured and their mate. Oftentimes, persons attempting to represent themselves will be presented a settlement release agreement with two signature lines (one for the victim and one for their spouse). They are told, “It’s just routine to have married people sign these things together”. They are never provided information that the award for the husband or wife of the injured victim is separate and in addition to the bodily injury compensation of the person injured. Once the spouse signs, they release all further claims and are forever barred from seeking any additional monies. Furthermore, presenting a claim for loss of consortium and making sure that this claim is fully valued requires a lawyer willing to sit down with both spouses and really get to know the nature and extent of their relationship so that the loss of what was a loving and caring marital bliss and the amount that this joy has been diminished can be fully presented for payment.
If you have been injured by the negligence of another and this has caused a serious strain on your marriage, it is critical that you seek competent and caring advice from an attorney familiar with loss of consortium claims. You did not ask to be put into a situation where the marital communications have been subject to discord and the reduction in everything from daily walks around the block to intimate relations have been affected. Unfortunately, the best the system can provide for these losses is a money damage award but, failing to assert these claims in a timely manner and subject to proper legal procedure will leave you with a gap that will never be made whole!