On Valentine’s Day, you may dedicate a little extra time to appreciating the special things about your spouse or partner that make you feel lucky to be with them. Maybe you appreciate the way they always do the dishes whenever you cook. Perhaps you admire their knack for lifting your spirits with an inspirational talk whenever you’re feeling down. Or it could be that you simply like the way they hold you—making you feel protected and letting you know that everything is okay.

When tragedy strikes, lives can change in a flash. If your spouse were involved in a serious accident, the impact on both of your lives would be tremendous. What are the legal structures in place to protect you—as the spouse of an accident victim?

You probably know that if you suffer injury due to someone else’s negligence, you can sue that party for your damages—including any medical bills, repairs, lost income and overall pain and suffering. If, however, your spouse is seriously injured—or even killed—in an accident, you also have the right to claim damages for all of the ways in which your spouse’s accident has negatively impacted your quality of life. This is a legal concept called “loss of consortium.”

Loss of consortium damages apply to serious injuries only. Let say, for instance, your husband got injured while working on the railroad—resulting in partial paralysis and traumatic brain injury. Such an accident would clearly have a devastating impact on your husband’s life. But it would also adversely affect your life on many levels.

Perhaps you relied on your husband to support you financially, or to help you with daily household tasks. Your husband’s brain injuries could also limit the amount of love and affection he’s able to convey to you. In addition, the accident would probably greatly alter your intimate marital relationship. All of these losses have a grave impact on your quality of life—and are compensable under the law.

Our human connections in life are some of our most valuable possessions. This Valentine’s Day, be thankful for all of the ways in which your spouse supports you—mentally, physically and emotionally.