How Does a Divorce Affect a Personal Injury Settlement?

Posted On May 5, 2021 Divorce

If you are dealing with a divorce in addition to a personal injury claim, you may be wondering whether the settlement will be divided between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Sometimes personal injury damages are paid all at once, and sometimes they are paid out over time. Either way, the Courts in Washington state apply the same analysis when determining how or whether to divide up that compensation. Read on to learn how a divorce affects a personal injury settlement and if you have further questions, speak with a Spokane divorce lawyer.

What Happens if You Get Divorced During an Injury Lawsuit?

Your soon-to-be ex-spouse may have a right to some of the personal injury settlement. How much largely depends on when you receive the compensation and the types of damages for which you are being compensated. Damages are often awarded in personal injury claims for medical expenses, lost income from missed work, and any other costs related to the injury.

If the injury impacted your spouse, for instance, if money for medical bills came from community funds, then they will have a right to part of the settlement regardless of your marital status.

Are Damages Considered Community Property or Separate Property?

Some damages from a personal injury settlement may be considered community property and others separate. Property accumulated during a marriage – other than gifts or inheritance — is generally considered community property and will be divided equally among the spouses in a divorce action. Not everything is divided in half, but each party has an equal claim on marital property and money.

Damages awarded for lost wages or property damage are a marital asset. Property such as vehicles and a spouse’s income are viewed as community property, so any compensation that reimburses those losses can be split.

Can Non-Economic Damages Be Split During a Divorce?

If the court grants non-economic damages, which is compensation for losses that are not financial, this compensation is typically not considered community property. The purpose of non-economic damages is to provide a victim with compensation for the intangible things lost because of the personal injury accident, including physical pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of lifestyle, and psychological harm.

Therefore, it will not be equitably split during a divorce as long as those funds are kept separate. If the non-economic damages have been combined or “commingled,” whether the funds are now separate or community property can become complicated. Funds that are commingled with marital assets can become community property. For example, if some or all non-economic damages are deposited into a joint account, it can be challenging to distinguish between which portion of the account is part of the separate property and part of the community property.

Get Help From an Experienced Divorce Attorney

When issues involving the division of a personal injury settlement arise in the context of a divorce, it is essential to speak to a lawyer. These matters can become complicated very quickly. An experienced attorney understands the specific complications and potential hazards this poses to your case. Contact Twyford Law Office today by email or call (509) 327-0777 to schedule your free consultation.