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Understanding loss of consortium

Most in Kern County may assume that when a person files a wrongful death lawsuit, he or she may be seeking to recover only the amount that the decedent provided in financial support. However, the emotional void that one experiences following the unexpected death of a loved one is often greater than the financial burden that he or she may now be asked to bear. In such cases, the law does allow one to attempt to seek compensation for his or her emotional losses.

Section 1431.2(b)(2) of the California Civil Code lists the types of non-economic damages one may recover through a civil action. Loss of consortium is listed among them. Loss of consortium is defined as the loss of relationship one suffers due to the negligent actions of another. It recognizes that a decedent may fill a substantial role in the lives of children as well as a spouse or romantic partner, providing various forms of emotional and moral support of which those parties are also denied following his or her death.

When considering awarding damages for loss of consortium, the Judicial Council of California instructs juries to consider the impact one feels after the loss of the following:

  •          Love and affection
  •          Comfort and protection
  •          Care and assistance
  •          Society and companionship

Furthermore, jury members are also told to consider the emotional toll that the loss of enjoyment of sexual relations (as well as the accompanying inability to have children with the decedent) can have on a spouse or partner. After taking these factors into consideration, a jury can award a plaintiff an amount equal to the estimated current value of such losses. No standards or caps exists on determining the amount of such an award. 

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