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Loss of Consortium:Impact on Family

     Plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz tells the story of a woman who came to him for help. She told the doctor about her husband, who had been injured in a fire while trying to save his parents from a burning house.

     Unfortunately, the man’s rescue attempt was unsuccessful and his parents died in the fire. It left the man’s face burned and disfigured. He was physically and emotionally scarred. He then believed that his pain and disfigurement must have been because God was punishing him. After that, the man would not go out in public and didn’t even want his wife to see him.

     When the wife relayed this story, Dr Maltz told her not to worry, “I can restore his face”. The wife did not react as Dr. Maltz expected because she knew that her husband had repeatedly refused help, and that he would not seek treatment from Dr. Maltz.

     Dr. Maltz then asked why she had come to see him, if her husband would not let him operate to fix the disfigurement. “Because” she said, “I want you to disfigure my face so that I can be like him. If I can share his pain, then maybe he will let me back in his life.”

     Dr. Maltz denied her request but was so moved by her sincere request that he was determined to speak to the husband. Knocking on the man’s bedroom door, he called out loudly, “I’m a plastic surgeon, and I want you to know that I can restore your face.”

     There was no response from the other side of the door. “Please come out”.  Again, no response from the man.

     Still speaking through the door, Dr Maltz then decided to tell the man about his wife’s request. “She wants me to disfigure her face, to make her like yours, in the hope that you will let her back into your life. That’s how much she loves you.”

     There was a brief moment of silence. Then, slowly, the doorknob began to turn.

     In Dr. Maltz’s story, we see the injuries to the man. We also see the impact of those injuries on his wife. I can think of many instances, when injuries suffered by my clients, have greatly impacted others in their family.

     In many states, the laws allow a claim for a loss of consortium;  These loss of consortium laws allow the spouse of the injured person; and sometimes, other family members impacted by the injuries or disability, to bring a related claim for damages, that is connected to the underlying injured client’s claim. In Virginia, the insurance industry has done a good job in making sure that the law does not recognize such claims as an avenue of recovery. Virginia does not recognize any claim for loss of consortium. 

     When you hear politicians brag about some bill that they have sponsored, to make Virginia  “business friendly”; that sometimes means that there will be  state economic benefits and more jobs. However, it may really mean that there will be restrictions on a person’s right to economic recovery and and that there will be caps on recovery damages.

     Such “business friendly” politicians may brag about their support of such caps and restrictions. In doing so, they may really be  relieving the true responsible party (defendant) from paying for the damages that have been caused. When that happens; instead of the responsible party paying for the damages; more likely, either the government or you and me become responsible.

     In serious cases, the injuries still exist. Lives and families are still impacted. Behind some closed doors, there are people that have no legal recovery to pursue.

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