Loss of consortium is a special type of tort recovery awarded to a family member of a tort victim. A loss of consortium action commonly occurs when a person dies as a result of the negligence of another. This action may also occur when someone is severely disabled or incapacitated.
A tort action is a civil lawsuit in which a party who causes injury pays monetary damages to the party he or she injured. A tort action can occur as a result of negligence or as a result if permanent injury. For example, if a tortfeasor, or person who commits a tort, intentionally damages a victim's property, that victim can sue. The victim could also sue if the tortfeasor negligently damaged property, but without intent.
Usually in a tort action, the person who is actually injured is awarded the damages. For example, if a person has his leg broken by a tortfeasor, the person with the broken leg collects damages. Even in a wrongful death tort lawsuit, the damages are the result of the death of the person who sustained the injury.
A loss of consortium action is slightly different. This legal action recognizes that the family of a tort victim also suffered a loss that should be compensated. The family of a victim of a tort suffered the loss of their family member.
A loss of consortium lawsuit is especially common among spouses. When a person loses his wife, for example, he can sue the person who killed his wife for both wrongful death and loss of consortium. The wrongful death damages are damages incurred by the wife, whose death was wrongful; while the loss of consortium damages are damages incurred by the husband who suffers due to the fact that he no longer has a wife.
Loss of consortium damages can also be pursued by any family member who is deprived of the company of a loved one as a result of someone else's tort action. Parents of young children, siblings, or children are other parties who are likely to be successful with this type of lawsuit. Generally, the relationship must be a close enough relationship that the court will find the family member was severely damaged by the loss of the company or companionship of the tort victim.
The tort victim does not always need to die for a person to be awarded damages due to the loss of the relationship. In some cases, the court has awarded damages to a husband whose wife was injured, and thus unable to engage in intimate marital relations. In other cases, family members have been compensated due to the severe disability or incapacitation of a tort victim.