Can a Husband or Wife Recover Damages in Their Spouse's Personal Injury Claim?
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).