When a personal injury attorney sues someone for negligently injuring his client, the personal injury lawyer is seeking to obtain compensation for that client. Such compensation can include lost wages, medical bills, and an award for pain and suffering.
What many people do not realize is that the person with the physical injury is not the only one who has suffered. If the client is married, the spouse generally has suffered also. Often times, the injured victim can’t take care of himself physically. His spouse has to help him do things that he could previously do himself. These things might include bathing, driving, and even going to the bathroom.
The injured victim may also not be able to engage in marital relations for some time, or even permanently.
The law recognizes this problem. Therefore, when a married person has a personal injury claim, his attorney may include a separate claim in the court papers on behalf of the victim’s spouse. This claim is known as loss of consortium, or in Latin, per quod.
An interesting question is whether a legally registered domestic partner of a personal injury victim is entitled to loss of consortium damages. I am not aware of any reported case in New Jersey that has decided that question. I would certainly argue that such a domestic partner should be entitled to such damages.
There is a takeaway here. If you are ever a personal injury victim, you should make sure to tell your personal injury attorney about any effects that your injuries have had upon your spouse.
You can read the actual jury instruction that New Jersey judges give to jurors respecting loss of consortium claims here.
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