Can You Keep A Personal Injury Settlement In Divorce?
After a car wreck or slip and fall, you might sue the person responsible for your accidents. These settlements provide a crucial source of support for people hurt by the negligence of other people. But what happens to this settlement in divorce? You might assume that as the injured victim you will keep 100% of the settlement. But the law in Florida is not quite that simple.
Was the Settlement Itemized?
Personal injury settlements compensate victims for certain losses suffered, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Most settlements will allocate certain amounts of money for each loss. So you might receive $100,000 for past medical care and $100,000 for future medical care, for example. How the settlement is itemized matters when it comes to divorce.
Pain & Suffering Compensation
Generally, the injured spouse can keep all of the compensation for pain and suffering and related losses, like disability or failure to lead an ordinary life. This makes sense. The injured spouse has suffered this pain, not the unharmed spouse.
Medical Expenses & Lost Income
We must look closely at these sums. Any that are allocated for losses subsequent to the end of the marriage belong to the injured spouse. For example, you might quickly divorce after receiving a settlement which contains $50,000 for lost past wages and $100,000 for lost future wages. Typically, the injured spouse can keep the $100,000.
However, compensation for lost income or wages that occurred while married are considered marital. This is no different than if a spouse worked and earned that money while married. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution in Florida.
Something similar happens with compensation for medical expenses. If you used marital funds, then the marital estate needs to be reimbursed.
Any personal injury funds which aren’t classified are considered marital. This means they will probably be divided. Unfortunately, you might have a settlement which doesn’t classify any of the compensation.
In that case, the law in Florida is that the entire amount is presumed marital. Of course, the injured spouse can present evidence showing how much of the settlement is allocated for lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. But without evidence, the entire amount could get divided.
Other Considerations when it Comes to Settlements
We also must consider what you did with the settlement. For example, if you deposited it into a joint bank account, then some or all of the funds could be considered “commingled.” That means they will take on the character of marital property.
Similarly, you might have used your personal injury settlement to make improvements to your property, like building a garage or adding a wing to your home. This could convert the amount to marital property.
As always, judges seek to divide marital assets “equitably” or fairly. Your attorney can make an argument that it’s only fair that you exit the marriage with your entire settlement.
Contact Bubley & Bubley, P.A. Today
We are happy to take a deeper dive into your settlement if you call us today to schedule a meeting with one of our Tampa divorce lawyers.