New Jersey allows loved ones of medical malpractice victims to pursue compensation for the toll that their family member’s injuries or death has taken on their relationship and their household.
The stresses of caretaking and lost support from your spouse can take an enormous toll on your relationship. Your relationship may suffer when your loved one sustains injuries or dies from a medical professional’s or facility’s negligence. When the damages from a medical malpractice incident extend into the intimate space of your marriage, you may claim loss of consortium from the responsible party. Proof of this damage may be challenging but can be successful with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. By understanding the critical aspects of compensation for loss of companionship and consortium in medical malpractice claims in New Jersey, as well as seeking help from a knowledgeable lawyer with experience assembling a compelling claim for this form of non-economic damages, you can position yourself for the optimal result in a lawsuit.
Understanding Loss of Companionship and Consortium in NJ
Loss of consortium is a damage claim allowed to a spouse in a personal injury, wrongful death, or medical malpractice action. Such a claim seeks compensation for losses caused by someone’s negligence. Thus, when your spouse’s appendectomy resulted in brain damage from an anesthesia error, your spouse may file a claim seeking damages, and you as their spouse, may claim loss of consortium. Additionally, if medical malpractice results in a fatality, you may sue the negligent medical professional for wrongful death and loss of consortium.
New Jersey allows spouses to claim lost companionship, intimacy, comfort, and services due to their spouse’s injuries or death. Successful loss of consortium claims compensate spouses for actual losses and attempt to return them to their pre-accident marital life. Similar to pain and suffering claims, loss of consortium is non-economic damage that injured plaintiffs claim in negligence-based lawsuits, as quality-of-life losses from disrupted relationships. Thus, when a medical negligence plaintiff successfully proves their damages claim, their spouse or partner may also pursue a loss of consortium claim. However, the inverse is also true. An unsuccessful claim or claim that is never filed also eliminates a loss of consortium claim.
Proving Loss of Consortium due to Medical Malpractice in New Jersey
To prove loss of consortium, a plaintiff must demonstrate a valid marriage and the partner’s injury or death resulting from another’s negligence. For example, a spouse may prove their marital status with a marriage certificate and prove negligence by a medical expert’s affidavit or testimony. So, when a routine appendectomy turns near fatal when the anesthesiologist administers the wrong anesthetic, the patient’s spouse may sue the doctor for the resulting brain damage. After establishing the relationship and injury, the loss of consortium plaintiff must provide evidence of the losses. Examples may be a lost sex life, a strained relationship due to the injured party’s pain and suffering, or lost joint hobbies like running, boating, music, and the like. Finally, the plaintiff must link the losses to the negligence that caused the victim’s injury. In other words, but for the doctor’s negligence, the patient would not have had injuries.
Valuing a Loss of Companionship/Consortium Claim in NJ
Since marital intimacy and companionship losses are subjective, a judge or jury must examine circumstantial factors as proof of injury and damages. The jury awarding damages must consider the nature of the relationship to quantify the loss. For example, a trier of fact may consider the length and quality of the relationship, shared activities pre-injury, history of violence or abuse, and similar assessments of the relationship pre and post-injury as persuasive loss of consortium losses. The injury’s severity and the injured spouse’s marital role are relevant to lost services and finances.
Perhaps one spouse was responsible for childcare and most household duties before becoming a person with paraplegia after a botched surgery. The losses may be quantifiable as to the costs of replacing childcare and domestic chores, but challenging to put a dollar amount on a lost partner, parent, and family member. Still, a jury may award a specific sum for quality of life losses. As for wrongful death cases, a jury looks at the ages of the couple and their children, if any. The loss of a young spouse with young children calculates to long-term financial and emotional support losses. The obligations of a parent raising children increases twofold when the other parent is deceased or unable to participate in feeding, transporting, carrying, holding, supporting, or counseling the children.
Marital records and witnesses may provide proof of a lengthy, bonded relationship. Despite the difficulty in quantifying intimacy and comfort losses, the likelihood that a jury awards damages to a spouse increases with the severity of the injury. Thus, a patient left brain damaged, paralyzed, permanently disabled, or chronically ill after a medical professional’s substandard medical care may persuade a jury of the spouse’s loss of a sex life, the promise of children, financial security, and shared activities and conversations.
Who can Sue for Loss of Consortium in New Jersey?
Individuals who may claim loss of consortium include spouses. It does not include divorced or separated spouses. The marriage, evidenced by marriage licenses or other proof of the relationship, establishes a plaintiff’s standing to sue. Domestic partners and children or parents may not claim loss of consortium in a personal injury, wrongful death, or medical malpractice lawsuit. However, an injured patient may also sue for loss of consortium. For example, a physician negligently performed bladder surgery, causing the patient’s incurable impotence. The patient may sue the doctor for their lost sex life and intimacy.
And in a wrongful death action, the deceased’s representative may claim loss of consortium in the survivorship action. The survivorship action seeks compensation for the deceased’s losses during the time they survived between the accident or malpractice incident and their death. For example, when a medical malpractice and subsequent wrongful death plaintiff survives for several years, deprived of marital intimacy and companionship before their death, the estate may pursue a survival action with a loss of consortium claim.
While children or parents may not sue for loss of consortium in a personal injury action, they may claim lost income, health insurance benefits, love, companionship, and parental guidance when a patient dies from their provider’s medical malpractice. A representative of a deceased’s estate files a wrongful death action on behalf of anyone who is a beneficiary of, and was financially dependent on, the deceased, including spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces.
Talk to an Attorney at Fronzuto Law Group about Your NJ Loss of Consortium Claim
Overall, medical malpractice actions require experience, knowledge, and skill in both law and the complexities of using medical records and information to prosecute a lawsuit successfully. When the lawsuit includes loss of consortium and companionship, you need an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to present and prove your damages to an insurance company, defense attorney, or jury. Neither a defendant’s legal team, nor a jury will take your word for how much you lost when your loved one was injured or died. Your attorney must employ and abide by the rules and laws governing admissible evidence at a civil trial and the regulations for medical malpractice and wrongful death in New Jersey.
At Fronzuto Law Group, our practice concentrates entirely on medical malpractice and wrongful death claims, allowing us to successfully represent injured patients, parents of injured children, and surviving loved ones impacted by negligent medical care on a constant basis. Our lawyers assist clients throughout New Jersey with obtaining maximum compensation in Bergen County, Passaic County, Essex County, Middlesex County, Hudson County, Monmouth County, and everywhere in between. We are ready to examine your case free of charge, assess your grounds for a lawsuit, and prove loss of companionship, consortium, and all other damages resulting from medical malpractice or wrongful death.
Call on the highly qualified New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group when you need help evaluating, preparing, and prosecuting your medical malpractice or wrongful death action. You can contact us online or call (973) 345-6300 for additional assistance.