Divorce is something we hope we never have to go through. Some divorces can be complicated, but if you throw in a personal injury award or settlement into the picture, it can really get challenging.
If faced with a divorce, you might be wondering what your rights are and if you have to share your settlement with your soon-to-be ex-spouse or if you’re entitled to any of the award money they may get.
Your Rights in Arizona
“Arizona is a community property state, meaning that any money or property collected or earned by either spouse during the marriage is owned equally by each spouse,” said Ken Gerber, a Personal Injury Lawyer at Gerber Injury Law. “If one spouse is injured during the marriage and collects an injury award or settlement, the other spouse has a claim to those proceeds as well.”
One scenario could involve a medical malpractice lawsuit where a lump sum is awarded to the victim. However, the spouse could argue he/she is entitled to some of the money due to having worked extra hours to make up for lost wages and handling extra duties at home. The same goes for injuries suffered in a car accident. Another tough case is when a settlement involves a child. Is the remaining money divided equally among the parents?
Do all of these things matter? Not really.
Phoenix Personal Injury Lawyers will argue about the various reasons or elements about why a settlement should be higher, according to Gerber. He says that includes “lost wages, pain and suffering, future medical care, medical bills, and so on. However, in the end, injury settlements are rarely divided based on these elements.”
Awards or injury settlements are usually paid in one lump sum without specifying how much was for each element. “Therefore, it is very difficult to argue that the injured spouse is entitled to any certain portion of the settlement,” explained Gerber.
How to protect yourself
“If a couple goes through a divorce, it’s important that any potential personal injury settlement is reported to their divorce attorney so that can be accounted for in the divorce,” said Gerber. “This could amount to a 50/50 split of the proceeds regardless of which spouse was injured.”
It’s also a good idea to advise your Phoenix Personal Injury Lawyer that there’s a likelihood of filing for divorce. In the meantime, maintain an individual, separate bank account to deposit any proceeds. Do not combine those assets with any of your spouse’s money until issues of equitable distribution are determined.
Finally, when claiming the damages, distinguish what is “personal” and what is “marital.” This should help when the time comes to file for divorce.
In the event you should find yourself needing a Personal Injury Lawyer, please contact us. We’ll do everything we can to fight for what’s legally yours!