When a Divorce and a Personal Injury Lawsuit Overlap

As a couple going through a divorce trial, you may be wondering if the court will allocate the personal injury finances equitably between you and your spouse or apply the community-property law.

How does a couple pursuing a personal injury award and a divorce case at the same time divide the marital property and the personal injury settlement?

Your personal injury and divorce case might resemble one of the following scenarios:

  • A couple would like to end their 10-year old marriage. The wife was out of work for a long period of time while healing from a medical malpractice accident. During that time, the husband was solely responsible for all of their bills and paying for the children’s education. The malpractice suit against the doctor is still in process even as the divorce suit concludes. How will the medical malpractice money be shared?
  • The husband suffers serious injuries in a car crash. The family lawyer Arizona relies on files a motor vehicle accident compensation claim against the drunk driver who caused the accident.
  • The husband and wife decide to divorce before the conclusion of the personal injury case. Does the wife get a share of the personal injury proceeds?

Divorce and Sharing of Personal Injury Awards

Personal injury and family laws vary by state. If faced with a scenario of overlapping divorce and a personal injury lawsuit, it’s best to consult a lawyer who can consider the unique details of your situation. However, as a general rule, the personal injury award sharing formula depends on several factors:

  • If the divorcing couple live in an equitable distribution state or community state.
  • The date of the accident, workplace injury, medical malpractice, or unlawful dismissal.
  • The date of separation or divorce.
  • The fine particulars of the divorce case.

Community and Equitable Distribution Approaches

A knowledgeable family law or personal injury lawyer should understand how different states handle a combined divorce and personal injury case. The state in which you live can affect the division of your marital property in divorce. In Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Louisiana, California, Washington, and Texas, the court may divide the marital property equally, so your personal injury could go to the husband and wife on a 50/50 basis. The other U.S states will often do a case analysis before a divorce settlement. Consult with an attorney in your state to find out how the laws will affect your case.

Equitable Distribution of Personal Injury Benefits

Most U.S states apply the equitable marital property distribution when it comes to dividing assets of divorcing spouses. However, laws vary from state to state when it comes to distributing personal injury awards. The courts may treat at least part of the personal injury settlement as marital property if the accident occurred during the marriage. It’s best to verify with a personal injury or divorce attorney who can review the unique details of your case, but generally speaking, the court will likely consider the following circumstances:

  • The assets that were acquired from the beginning of your marriage up to the time of divorce.
  • The prenuptial agreement on the way to divide property in case of divorce.
  • The nature of the injury to determine if the damage is individual or involving the two spouses.

The court will have to determine the percentage of the personal injury award each spouse will get. An experienced personal injury lawyer or divorce attorney can provide you with legal guidance as to how much you may be entitled to receive.

Hildebrand Law, PCThanks to our friends and contributors from Hildebrand Law for their insight into personal injury and divorce practice.