Personal Injury Proceeds may be Divided in Divorce
Each year, more than 700,000 personal injury claims are filed in the United States. Personal injury law is intended to protect or financially “make whole” injured person(s) harmed in an accident or other incident.
After an accident or personal injury, recovery encompasses many aspects. From financial impacts, medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of personal enjoyment and wage loss, obtaining the best compensation to assist with recovery is ideal. Interestingly though, the proceeds from personal injury lawsuits are not legally considered personal property of the injured person if he or she is married when the injury occurs, but instead joint marital property.
When the marriage dissolves, this can pose a risk to the injured spouse and the status of the monies received from the personal injury lawsuit. Ensuring protection for the injured spouse’s compensation depends on the status of the marriage when the injury occurred and also the quality of the divorce lawyer and legal team.
Most Property Acquired During Marriage is Marital Property
Under Pennsylvania law, within limited exceptions, all property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property subject to equitable distribution. This means if your accident occurred during the marriage, the proceeds, no matter when they are received, are considered marital property subject to division between the spouses. The proceeds or a portion of the proceeds may also be considered for spousal support, although the monies will not count for support if they counted as marital property.
If the case for the injured spouse and his or her future losses due to the injury is not argued well by a legal team, the Court may divide the personal injury award between both spouses.
Marital Property is Divided Equitably, Not Equally
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, meaning our law divides marital property and debts equitably, but not necessarily equally. The Court considers eleven factors to determine how property will be divided.
An amendment to the divorce code in Pennsylvania permits the Court to divide different assets in different percentages. This is especially helpful in cases of personal injury recoveries since many times the monies received represent damages that are personal and a result of an injury suffered by one spouse, not both.
Since most personal injury recoveries are based on future earnings and future losses, it is important that any lump sum payment be marked to note damages that occurred during the marriage and those following the separation. The Court is more likely to award a higher percentage to the injured spouse if it can be shown the damages represent future losses. This unequal division may have many consequences, so the most important takeaway should be a competent family law attorney is your best advantage to retaining the most of your personal injury settlement.
Get the Best Outcomes with a Good Legal Team
A reputable law firm offering a legal team comprised of domestic relations attorneys as well as personal injury attorneys, like Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk LLC, makes the best team to handle divorce cases with a personal injury component. This legal team combination allows attorneys to make the most appropriate legal arguments to ensure your ex-spouse does not receive an unjust portion of the claim.
Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk LLC uses this team approach to help our clients through their divorces. We work hard to ensure you receive the maximum recovery of your personal injury claims.
The divorce lawyers and personal injury attorneys at Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk, LLC, have more than twenty-five years of experience handling domestic relations issues, like divorce, child custody, spousal and child support, and property settlement, and have managed thousands of cases. If you are considering a divorce, contact us for a consultation.