After an accident, the laws of Missouri allow the injury victim to file a claim for damages in a personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits may take years to resolve and can result in a large financial award or settlement to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and any other damages.
Depending on the situation, these personal injury settlements may be considered assets in a divorce. This can have an impact on the property division, alimony payments, and separation agreements in a divorce. If you or your spouse is involved in a personal injury case and want to know how a personal injury settlement can affect your divorce, talk to your Missouri family law attorney.
Marital Property in a Personal Injury Settlement
In most cases, property and assets in a divorce are divided based on an “equitable distribution” system in Missouri. This is supposed to provide for a fair division of the assets and debts a couple has accumulated over the course of their marriage.
If one spouse was injured in an accident during the marriage and a settlement agreement is paid out during the marriage or during the divorce, that settlement is not considered marital property but the court can look at the settlement to determine if it is intended to cover shared losses or losses to the injured spouse alone. Alternatively, an accident that happened before marriage would generally not be included in marital property.
Damages in a personal injury lawsuit can be based on a number of losses, both economic and non-economic. The economic damages include lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical treatment, and continuing medical care. Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. Loss of consortium is a type of damage that the spouse of an injury can claim based on the loss of love, affection, and relations.
Marital or Separate Damages
For example, the portion of a settlement that is intended to cover future medical care would likely go to the injured spouse. However, the portion that is intended to cover past medical care may be marital property as it was incurred during the marriage, and any debt from medical care the spouses assume during the marriage would generally be considered marital debt.
Damages for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment in life would generally be considered the property of the injured spouse. Damages for loss of consortium may similarly be considered losses of the non-injured spouse.
Alimony or Support Payments
A significant settlement or financial award can change how alimony or support payments are determined. The separate settlement amount may be considered part of the injured spouse's total assets. This is a factor in deciding alimony in a Missouri divorce and could significantly shift the weight of how much each spouse has in total assets.
A lawsuit for personal injury damages can be very unpredictable. The case may go on for years and go to trial and the injury victim may end up with nothing. Alternatively, the injury victim could get an eventual award of millions of dollars. Litigation in medical malpractice and personal injury cases can take a long time and a couple could end up divorcing over that time the case is tied up in court.
If the spouse is injured during the marriage and files a lawsuit, the non-injured spouse may want to make a claim on any portion of an eventual settlement that is considered part of the marital property. This generally takes the form of term in the separation agreement that the non-injured spouse will take a certain proportion of any marital property that comes from a personal injury award or settlement.
Experienced Missouri Divorce Attorney
An injury accident can be difficult on both spouses and may even be a factor in leading to the divorce. If you were injured in an accident and your spouse or ex wants a portion of your settlement, The Joshua Wilson Law Firm is here to help. Contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm today by calling (816) 331-9968 or fill out our online form.