I was in an accident. Can my spouse take part of my personal injury suit award?
If you've been injured in an accident, you may have been awarded damages for your pain and suffering, lost wages and medical bills, whether through a lawsuit or settlement.
In a typical Florida divorce, the property, including funds of the spouses deemed to be “marital property” will be divided between the parties by the judge at the time of divorce. Florida is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning the judge will attempt to divide the marital property in a fair manner, often equally, between the parties.
However, under Florida law, funds you received from a personal injury lawsuit belong to you personally, and are not subject to division if you get divorced. Exceptions arise for funds that you were awarded for lost wages, or if your spouse brought a "loss of consortium" claim-- that is, a claim for their deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship with you due to injuries caused by the at-fault party.
There are other exceptions, such as:
Itemized Awards or Settlements: If part of your award or settlement is specifically designated to include your spouse, such as lost wages, your spouse may be able to claim part of those funds as martial property.
Commingled Funds: If, upon receipt, you deposited your personal injury award funds into a joint checking account, for example) and then used to pay marital debts, your spouse would argue that you "comingled" those funds with marital funds, which changed their character from non-marital to marital.
Payment of Bills with Marital Funds: If marital funds were used to pay the medical bills initially, then a court may consider using more of the award or settlement money in order to compensate the marital funds for this payment.
If you were injured in an accident and are facing divorce, protect yourself. The attorneys of The Bulger Firm are here to help you get the most for your injuries, and to make sure you keep them. Call 904-608-3694 to schedule your free consultation.