Loss Of Consortium

Mineral Wells insurance lawyers need to know how a “loss of consortium” claim works as it regards insurance.
The 1987 Texas Supreme Court opinion styled McGovern v. Williams helps a person to understand how this type of claim. Here is some relevant information.
This cause concerns the liability of an insurance company under an automobile liability policy. Robert McGovern and wife, Ella Jo, sued respondent Linda Kay Williams for damages arising out of an automobile accident. Mr. McGovern sued for personal injuries and Mrs. McGovern, who was not involved in the accident, sued for loss of consortium. Respondent State Farm Insurance Company, the insurer for Ms. Williams, intervened and tendered $10,000 as full payment of its policy limits. The trial court determined that $10,000 was the applicable policy limit and, after accepting the tender, released and discharged State Farm from any further liability. Ms. Williams’ insurance policy with State Farm insured Ms. Williams to the extent of $10,000 per person and $20,000 per occurrence for bodily injury claims. State Farm tendered $10,000 pursuant to the “per person” policy limit. Mrs. McGovern disputed the amount of the tender, contending that she and Mr. McGovern were each entitled to $10,000 in insurance proceeds and that State Farm’s obligation was $20,000. The trial court held State Farm was not obligated to pay the damages sustained by Mr. and Mrs. McGovern in excess of the $10,000 limit. The trial court accordingly accepted State Farm’s tender of $10,000 and released State Farm from any further liability. The trial court also rendered judgment against Ms. Williams in favor of Mrs. McGovern for $10,000.
At issue in this case is whether loss of consortium is a separate “bodily injury” to a spouse for purposes of applying the minimum insurance policy limits contained in Ms. Williams’ policy and required by the Texas Safety Responsibility Law. McGovern contends that her claim for loss of consortium constitutes a “bodily injury” as that term is used in Texas Safety Responsibility Law and that she is entitled to independently recover from State Farm under the $10,000 “per person” liability limit.
Mrs. McGovern argues the legislature intended the law to encompass loss of consortium as a separate “bodily injury” because the legislature’s general intent in enacting the statute was to protect persons from loss caused by negligent motorists. She contends that bodily injury is not limited to actual physical contact but is to be liberally construed to include mental anguish and emotional trauma. She pointed to other cases that she contended supported her position.
The court said that the term “bodily injury” cannot be reasonably construed to incorporate loss of consortium. While it is true that loss of consortium is a separate and independent cause of action, that action is a derivative claim that arises only as a consequence of injuries to one’s spouse. The fact that Mrs. McGovern has a separate cause of action for loss of consortium does not mean, as Mrs. McGovern asserts, that loss of consortium constitutes a “bodily injury.”
So what is the effect here? This means that a person can make a claim for “loss of consortium but that the claim cannot require that there be a payment by the insurance company that exceeds the amount of the bodily injury per person limit.