What is Loss of Consortium in South Carolina?

Columbia personal injury lawyer

After an accident, you and your family might face substantial burdens. The cost of medical expenses, the lost time and work, and the victim’s pain and suffering can all lead to substantial damages for which you deserve compensation. But some areas of compensation, such as “loss of consortium,” are also available.

Loss of consortium is a set of damages paid to a victim’s spouse to account for the harms they suffer when their spouse is injured. These damages usually account for the services and benefits that a victim cannot provide while injured, which compensates the spouse for those losses.

For help with an injury case and assistance recovering for loss of consortium in South Carolina, call our South Carolina personal injury attorneys today at (803) 451-4000. At Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers, we offer free case evaluations.

Claiming Loss of Consortium Damages in South Carolina

Traditionally when you sue for injuries, you sue for the victim’s injuries. Victims can recover compensation for most harms, financial or otherwise, that they incur because of the accident. Most of these harms are personal to the individual who was physically injured. Loss of consortium is separate but often lumped in as part of an injury lawsuit.

Technically speaking, a lawsuit for loss of consortium is a separate lawsuit that the spouse files. However, these cases are usually filed alongside the main injury case to get all the compensation together in one case.

Unlike the injury case, which can be filed as soon as the injury takes place, the right to file a loss of consortium claim does not exist until the harms start. This means that you might need to wait weeks or months to analyze the effects of your spouse’s injury on your life before your Columbia personal injury lawyer can file your loss of consortium claim.

Your attorney will analyze what harms you faced because of the family member’s injury and assign a monetary value to these harms. Although most of the harm that falls under the category of loss of consortium has no clear price tag or monetary value, the damages can still be claimed in the form of monetary damages. As these damages are quite personal, your own valuation of the damages is often the best evidence of their worth.

What Damages Are Included in Loss of Consortium Claims in South Carolina?

The law in South Carolina specifically authorizes a spouse to sue for loss of consortium under S.C. Code § 15-75-20. Although some states allow parents and children to sue for loss of consortium or “filial consortium,” a South Carolina Supreme Court case called Doe v. Greenville County School District (2007) indicates that these claims are not allowed, though a parent might be able to claim damages for the lost services of a child.

The wording in the South Carolina statute specifically authorizes compensation for “aid, society and services.” It also blocks damages that are claimed in another lawsuit and does not authorize certain other damages.

Included Damages

In general, the lines between what is considered “aid” and what is considered “services” are not particularly important. Generally, this statute is seen as allowing claims for any of the following kinds of harms that a spouse faces when their spouse is injured, as well as other damages:

  • Lost counsel
  • Lost emotional support
  • Lost financial support
  • Lost household services (e.g., chores and repairs)
  • Lost care (especially if the injured spouse provides home nursing or disability care)
  • Lost comfort

 

The phrase “society” in this statute primarily means sexual interactions. Lost romance, gratification, or performance caused by the injury will, presumably, impact the victim’s spouse as well. This is, of course, a very personal matter, so defining the damages might involve uncomfortable questions. These damages are usually higher when the victim suffers serious injuries such as paralysis that make sexual performance impossible.

In each category of loss of consortium damages, you might also be able to claim compensation for lost quality in the relationship. In a couple where one spouse suffered severe injuries that reduce their quality of life, their spouse is likely to face reduced quality in the relationship. While some of these harms might seem small compared to your spouse’s physical injuries, it is important to claim these damages to get yourself and your family the payments you deserve for your spouse’s injuries.

Excluded Damages

The statute specifically excludes damages from a loss of consortium claim if they are otherwise compensated in the injury claim. For example, most injury lawsuits involve damages for lost wages if the injury will keep the victim from being able to work. That lost income will certainly affect the support that the victim provides their spouse. However, you cannot claim these damages twice (once in the injury lawsuit as “lost wage” damages and again in the loss of consortium lawsuit as “lost support” damages).

Loss of consortium claims can only be filed for actual damages that factually exist. Purely hypothetical future damages usually cannot be claimed. Talk to a South Carolina personal injury lawyer about what damages can be reliably predicted (e.g., ongoing lost society) and what damages might not have enough proof to claim them as part of your loss of consortium claim (e.g., a potential future decline in relationship quality).

Damages for loss of consortium are only available if the injury occurred during the marriage. Since the law specifies that a spouse must claim these damages, courts such as the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina in Bishop of Charleston v. Century Indemnity Co. (2016) have refused to allow loss of consortium damages for injuries that occurred before the marriage. This means that dating partners and engaged partners might not be able to claim loss of consortium in South Carolina, even if they live together. Talk to a lawyer about the specifics of your case and what limits might apply.

Call Our South Carolina Injury Lawyers Today

If your spouse was injured in an accident, you could be entitled to damages for the harms you faced because of the injury. Call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today at (803) 451-4000 for a free case review with our Sumter personal injury attorneys.

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