My spouse has been forced to care for me because of my injuries. Does he also have a claim?
In general, the answer is no. With a few exceptions, care provided by a spouse is not something that you can include as an element of your damages and is not a separate claim that your spouse can bring against the negligent party. One exception is if your spouse has to take time off from work to care for you. In that case, because your family income is reduced, you can claim that lost income. You are also entitled to receive compensation for any out of pocket expenses and mileage expenses associated with driving you to and from medical appointments.
A related--but distinct--claim is for loss of consortium. A loss of consortium claim is a claim that your spouse can bring if your injuries prevent you from engaging in normal marital activities and relations. For example, if the burden of managing a home/family falls on your spouse due to your incapacitation, he/she would have a claim for the physical and emotional hardship he/she experiences during that time-period. A loss of consortium claim also would provide compensation to a spouse if you are unable to engage in sexual relations due to your injuries.
Because spouses are not generally able to receive compensation for the care they provide to you after an accident, we generally recommend to have at least part of that care provided by a third party, such as a personal care attendant, a visiting nurse, etc. For our clients with very serious injuries that prevent them from caring for themselves for extended periods of time, we hire an expert to prepare a Life Care Plan which takes into account our client’s physical and/or mental limitations and assesses the care that our client needs on a day-to-day basis.
For example, in a case we handled involving a client from Bangor, Maine with a serious back injury, we had a life care planner review all of our client’s medical records, speak with our client’s doctors, interview our client’s family members, and interact directly with our client in order to fully understand our client’s day-to-day needs such as assistance using the bathroom, bathing, cleaning, cooking, etc.
The life care planner calculated what it would cost to have home services provided by a personal care attendant and a nurse. The life care planner then multiplied the yearly costs for these services by our client’s life expectancy to determine what the total future costs would be. The figure was then utilized by us as part of the claim we made against the insurance company. The claim was successfully resolved. The client recently sent us a Christmas card stating: “Greetings Peter—Hope you’re still knocking their socks off in (and out) of court. You certainly pulled it off for me. Used the earnings last year to add to our home and make it more handicapped friendly. What a difference in quality-in-life having a home that doesn’t fight with your lack of ability. Hope you have as much to celebrate as we have!” (B.A., Bangor)
If this information doesn’t answer your question, please feel free to contact one of our Maine personal injury lawyers. There is no cost or obligation for the consultation. All consultations are 100 percent confidential.