How “Loss of Consortium” Can Lead to Damages in a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawsuit
In Tennessee personal injury cases, you often come across the term “loss of consortium.” This refers to a separate claim for damages brought by the spouse of an accident victim. The basic idea is that if the injured spouse is no longer able to fully contribute to the marriage, the other spouse is entitled to compensation for this loss.
Loss of consortium claims are distinct from the victim’s own medical bills, pain and suffering, and other non-economic damages. A loss of consortium claim belongs to the spouse alone. This means, among other things, that the spouse needs to follow the same rules as the victim in pursuing their legal rights.
Court Dismisses Loss of Consortium Claim Due to Spouse’s Failure to Separately Notify State
A recent decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Kampmeyer v. State of Tennessee, helps to illustrate what we are talking about. In this case, a Florida man (the plaintiff) was injured in a car accident that took place on Highway 11 here in Tennessee. The plaintiff subsequently sued the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) alleging its employees caused the accident while applying deicing agent to the roadway.
In Tennessee, you cannot simply file a personal injury lawsuit against the state or one of its agencies. Instead, the victim must present a claim for money damages to the Tennessee Department of Treasury’s Division of Claims Administration. The Division then has 90 days to investigate the claim and decide whether to pay or deny it. If the Division takes no action within the 90-day notice period, the matter is transferred to the Tennessee Claims Commission, which has jurisdiction to hear the case.
In this case, the plaintiff did file his notice with the Division. When the Division failed to act within 90 days, he brought his complaint to the Commission. This was not the problem. The problem was that the plaintiff’s wife also brought a claim before the Commission for her loss of consortium. Unfortunately, the wife did not include this claim in her husband’s initial notice to the Division of Claims Administration.
This was a fatal mistake, the Court of Appeals explained. Affirming an earlier decision by the Claims Commission, the Court noted it was well-established in Tennessee law that “loss of consortium is a distinct cause of action, separate from the claim of an injured spouse.” As such, the wife was required to notify the Division separately before she could pursue her loss of consortium claim before the Commission. Since she failed to do so, the Claims Commission acted appropriately in dismissing her claim with prejudice.
Speak with a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Loss of consortium claims are complicated even when they do not involve a state agency defendant. An experienced Knoxville car accident attorney can provide you with advice and representation tailored to your particular situation. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our personal injury team.