Spouses of Injured Victims Have Their Own Claims–But Maybe Not When the Injury Happens at Sea

If you sustain personal injuries, certainly your own pain, suffering, loss of income, and other damages may be recoverable against a responsible party. Often though a victim’s injuries don’t just affect them, but also the people around them, such as spouses. Spouses of injured victims may also lose vital aspects of companionship when their significant other is injured. Those losses can often be recovered by the spouse if the injury occurs in Florida, but the law is unclear whether that’s true if a victim is injured at sea. Our Florida maritime accident attorneys can help you understand the specifics regarding your individual case.

Sad Spouse

Spouse Becomes Separate Plaintiff in Case

A spouse who loses the companionship, intimacy, or daily comfort of their loved one’s health, has what is called a loss of consortium claim. The spouse will be a separate Plaintiff, suing along with the directly injured spouse.

If a spouse can no longer take walks in the park, or help care for young children, or is sleeping all day due to pain medications, or personality is altered, the other spouse can sue along with the victim for loss of consortium. A loss of consortium claim recognizes that there is a value in the closeness that a husband and wife share and in the activities they engage in together. A jury can award damages for that loss, in addition to the normal damages suffered by the victim.

Consortium claims can often be powerful. Hearing a spouse testify that the other is not the same, that they are not intimate, or that the funny, engaging person they fell in love with has changed, can be heart wrenching to a jury.

Maritime Law Works Differently

Florida law always allows a consortium claim to be brought by a spouse. However, maritime law—the law of the sea—is much different. For a long time, federal maritime law did not recognize consortium claims because federal statutes that provide remedies to victims for personal injuries did not specifically state that consortium claims could be brought. This was a serious restriction for spouses of those critically injured on cruises or boats.

Fortunately, that may be starting to change. At least one court in Florida has stated that the law is quite unsettled, and allowed an injured party to assert a consortium claim in a maritime case, at least at the initial stages. This rationale was based on a doctrine that says that unless a claim is expressly restricted by a federal maritime statute, it should be allowed to be asserted. No statute specifically bars consortium claims, and so for now, the question of whether such claims can be brought is an open one.

Although federal courts are not known to make decision solely out of emotion, hopefully, the persuasive and emotional arguments in favor of allowing consortium claims will eventually be accepted in maritime injury cases.

If you are injured on a cruise or by the negligence of a cruise line, don’t wait to get help or wonder about your rights. Federal maritime laws can be very complex and change often. Talk to the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. about a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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