Under Florida law, individuals may be entitled to wrongful death damages if a loved one has been killed due to the negligent act of another, depending on the individual’s relationship with the deceased. Pursuant to Florida Statutes section 768.21, wrongful death damages include but are not limited to, loss of companionship, loss of protection, loss of guidance, loss of financial support, and mental pain and suffering.
As a surviving spouse, individuals may be able to recover what is referred to as “loss of consortium” damages. Loss of consortium is a catch-all phrase that describes a variety of marital losses that can be difficult to quantify. In the case of Gates v. Foley, the Florida Supreme Court defined “consortium” as the companionship and fellowship of a husband and wife. The Gates Court went on to note that a claim for loss of consortium is the right of each spouse to the company, cooperation, and aid of the other – including the sexual relationship, affection, solace, comfort, companionship, conjugal life, fellowship, society, and assistance necessary to a successful marriage.
Florida law allows deprived spouses to recover for damages for loss of consortium based on a variety of injuries suffered by the other spouse. The injury may be physical in nature, such as an injury involving major trauma or permanent disability. While the injury suffered does not need to be permanent, Florida courts have ruled that the injury suffered must not be so insubstantial as to fail to warrant recovery for damages. For instance, courts in Florida have found no recovery for loss of consortium where an impaired spouse suffered no injuries besides bruises and shock that did not require medical attention.
It requires skill to prove loss of consortium damages because, in most cases, there are few objective measures available to calculate the actual losses in financial terms. Accordingly, when a wrongful death claim is brought, loss of consortium must be argued on a case by case basis. A loss of consortium claim, however, does not account for the financial support of the deceased spouse. Loss of support is a separate element in wrongful death damages.
Under Florida law, only surviving spouses are entitled to loss of consortium damages. Close romantic relationships do not qualify for this type of damage award. At the time of death, the survivor and the deceased are required to have been legally married. Only where there is a valid, legal marriage between the survivor and the deceased will the surviving spouse be entitled to recover loss of consortium damages.
Wittmer|Linehan understands that dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult. This difficulty can be exacerbated by the prospect of having to litigate a claim against the person responsible for the death or serious injury of a loved one. The experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Wittmer|Linehan will discuss your legal rights with you and assist you with all aspects related to the filing of your claim.