Often times, the life-altering effects of personal injuries resulting from another person’s negligence reach people far beyond the specific individual who suffered the actual physical injury. This includes any personal injury or loss resulting from everything from your standard negligence claim to an auto accident or even a dog attack.
While the direct losses to the individual suffering direct physical injury clearly present legal grounds for a personal injury claim, the indirect losses to the spouse of one who has suffered personal injury is also a claim that is often misunderstood and can be overlooked.
The claim for damages by an injured individual’s spouse or loved one is commonly referred to as “Loss of Consortium.” If you feel that you have suffered injury in the form of loss of companionship, physical interaction, or financial support resulting from personal injuries suffered by your spouse or loved one, contact the reputable Greenville personal injury attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., to help you achieve the compensation that you are entitled to under the laws of South Carolina.
Loss of Consortium Explained:
As set forth by S.C. Code § 15-75-20:
“Any person may maintain an action for damages arising from an intentional or tortuous violation of the right to the companionship, aid, society or services of his or her spouse.”
From a practical standpoint, loss of consortium damages are intended to compensate individuals whose relationship with his or her spouse has been dramatically and negatively affected by an accident that resulted in personal injury. These damages may be awarded to compensate things such as an injured spouse’s inability to support, counsel, or spend time with their loved ones in the same manner that they were otherwise able to prior to the subject incident giving rise to their injuries.
The court in Cook v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. 196 S.C. 230, 13 S.E.2d 1 (1941) sets forth the underlying policy for this category of damages as follows:
‘The companionship and society of a wife are not articles of commerce. They cannot be weighed or measured. They are not bought and sold, and no expert is competent to testify as to their value. The consideration upon which they are bestowed is not pecuniary. Yet the husband is entitled to compensation in money for their loss, and the amount of that compensation is to be determined by the jury, not evidence of value, but from their own observation, experience, and knowledge, conscientiously applied to the facts and circumstances of the case. So, also, in relation to the services of the wife.’
Id., quoting Denver Consol. Tramway Co. v. Riley, 1899, 14 Colo.App. 132, 59 P. 476, 479.
This little known cause of action for loss of consortium is meant to compensate an individual for the loss of another’s society, guidance, companionship, and sexual relations.
As is the general guiding principle of the legislature when it comes to the creation and amendments of all laws, with a shift and evolution of societal norms and values, the legislature endeavors to ensure that the laws also evolve accordingly to meet the needs and values of today’s society. Namely, the laws underlying loss of consortium have shifted from being viewed as a proprietary interest to a relational interest.
How is This Subjective Loss Calculated?
Loss of consortium is defined as a “general damages”. General Damages differ from Special Damages in that they are non-economic in nature. What this means is that this particular class of damages is not capable of being quantified. There are no billing records or receipts that can clearly and precisely set forth the value of a spouse’s loss of “society, guidance, companionship, and sexual relations.”
Damages of this nature cannot be calculated with certainty in the same manner that medical bills, loss of earnings, or property damage can be determined. There is no written estimate, receipt, or tangible document that can truly quantify damages for loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium is one of several types of damages that are otherwise known as “non-economic damages.” Non-economic damages are damages for things such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium or companionship, which involve no direct economic loss and have no verifiable value.
South Carolina broadly defines “non-economic damages” as non-monetary damages arising from the following:
- Physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Injury to reputation
- Fear of loss, illness, or injury
- Other non-pecuniary damages
An award for non-economic damages, which have no clear formula for calculation, is left to the discretion of the judge or jury. Since these types of damages are so difficult to quantify, it will be in your best interest to retain a legal representative to help you gather the requisite evidence to present to a judge or jury as well and to help you articulate a more realistic monetary value that may attach to your claims for loss of consortium and other non-economic damages.
As a general matter, calculating non-economic damages for things like loss of consortium is not a cut and dry analysis. You can’t approach this complicated and vague legal issue without having a legal representative in your corner. Hopefully, this broad synopsis setting forth the basic principles of a loss of consortium claim has provided you a basic understanding as to the nature and extent of your potential claim. Contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., to discuss your claim further.