Does a Divorce Affect a Personal Injury Settlement?

Legally separating from a partner can be an exhausting experience. For instance, you and your former partner will likely spend ages discussing matters like custody arrangements and determining how to separate assets. Proceedings may become further complicated if you are expecting to receive a personal injury settlement. 

Money is typically a point of contention when partners are going through a divorce, and it may be unclear whether your divorce will affect your settlement. The answer depends on the details surrounding your accident, your divorce, and the damages being recovered. When you’re concerned about the outcome of your personal injury case, it may be beneficial to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer.

How Do Personal Injury Settlements Factor Into a Divorce?

Certain circumstances require your personal injury settlement to be considered community property during your divorce. All belongings gained during a couple’s marriage are referred to as marital property. 

In Washington, marital property laws employ the notion of “community property,” which deems assets acquired during a marriage to be jointly owned by the spouses and subject to an equal split upon divorce. Washington is one of the few states that still recognizes community property.

When Is a Personal Injury Settlement Considered Community Property?

During your divorce, some of the damages from your settlement may be considered separate property, and others may be community property. Usually, when a single spouse receives a settlement from an insurer, it is their sole property. However, a judge can decide that the settlement is marital property if the insurer granted the award to you both as a married couple.

Since your property and a spouse’s income are considered community property, compensation given for loss of income and property damage would be considered a marital asset and can be divided. It can also be argued that a personal injury settlement becomes a marital asset and subsequently community property if the injured spouse deposits the money into a joint account maintained by both spouses.

Are Non-Economic Damages Community Property?

Non-economic damages, or compensation for losses other than financial ones, are usually not regarded as community property when awarded by the court. Non-economic damages are intended to compensate a victim for the intangible losses incurred from the personal injury accident, such as disfigurement and pain and suffering. 

It would be difficult to establish that the spouse who wasn’t hurt in the accident had any claim to these damages because they usually only directly affect the injured spouse. As a result, if those funds are kept separate, they will not be divided in your divorce.

When Is a Personal Injury Settlement Likely Unaffected by Divorce?

In certain situations, your personal injury settlement may not be relevant in your divorce. For example, money won for a personal injury settlement that occurred before your marriage remains the sole property of the individual who received it. This principle also applies during a separation. The non-injured spouse is not eligible for any portion of the settlement if the couple was living apart at the time of the accident.

Though determining these factors may seem straightforward, settlements are often complex and can be difficult to sort out without legal assistance. The help of an experienced attorney is important to solidify your side of the incident and help ensure you receive the entirety of the compensation owed to you.

Dealing with a personal injury and going through a divorce are two challenging situations to manage in close proximity, and they are likely to make matters more complicated for you. Consider consulting a lawyer when concerns regarding the division of your personal injury settlement arise during your divorce. An adept lawyer is aware of the unique challenges this may pose for you and may be able to help you navigate them.

The legal team at Premier Law Group is committed to assisting accident victims and securing fair compensation. We put forth a significant effort to ensure our clients succeed even in challenging cases. For accident-related cases, we provide a free case evaluation and only accept compensation if we succeed. Call (206) 880-7518 or use our contact form to contact our office and arrange your free consultation.