Loss of Consortium: Not Just Sex

In the day-to-day activities of running a household, rarely do spouses stop to appreciate all the things they do for one another. Those what-would-I-do-without-you moments are typically reserved for special occasions like Valentine’s Day and wedding anniversaries, or for the occasional crises that pull a family together. But as they say, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone — and that’s where a loss of consortium claim comes into play.

The spouse of the injured person in a personal injury suit has a right to file his or her own complaint seeking damages for loss of consortium. Often thought of as a euphemism for loss of sexual relations, the claim actually encompasses a whole range of spousal duties that are considered a normal part of the marital relationship: love, affection, services, support, companionship, aid, and yes, sexual relations. In fact, before the women’s rights movements of the late 19th and 20th centuries, only the husband of an injured woman was permitted to sue for loss of consortium, because it was assumed, in essence, that he had lost the services of his live-in housekeeper.

As marriages evolved into an equal partnership, it became clear that either spouse can sustain losses when the other is injured, so loss of consortium claims became available to both spouses. In addition, beginning in the 1980s, some states began to acknowledge loss of parental consortium as an actionable claim by the child of an injured parent, particularly in cases of wrongful death. However, one old-fashioned notion remains: No state currently permits loss of consortium claims by non-married couples.

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