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How Personal Injury Claims can Affect Relationships

affect-relationships

Catastrophic injuries resulting from an accident, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord damage caused by a car accident, can lead to divorce. Virginia Commonwealth University has reported that as many as 25 percent of marriages fail following such an accident. While this is unfortunate, there are many new stresses added to marriage when these injuries occur. This added stress forms clear indication as to why some marriages fail.

Such stress may include:

  • Loss of the injured person’s income
  • Non-injured party having to take on the other’s responsibilities
  • Increased domestic tasks for the non-injured spouse
  • Personality changes due to TBI or other injuries
  • Depression in one or both parties after the accident
  • Loss of social freedoms and life enjoyment as a couple
  • Inability to engage in normal sexual activity

While it cannot be said that “personal injury claims lead to divorce,” it is possible to state that catastrophic accidents can lead to divorce due to injuries suffered from the accident, as the Virginia Commonwealth Study indicates.

Personal injury and car accident attorneys can help victims seeking compensation for injury or other damages determine the best approach to their case for protection of assets in the event of divorce, or should divorce be on the horizon. This may require additional consultation of a divorce or family law attorney.

Personal Injury Damages in Divorce

During divorce, funds acquired as compensation for sustained injuries or property damage can be included in marriage settlements. Much of this money’s inclusion in a divorce and how it is divided falls on state laws regarding matrimonial assets in divorce.

When money from personal injury case awards and settlements are considered during a divorce, many factors may be weighed in regard to how much each spouse is entitled to, particularly when only one of the spouses was in the accident.

Some past considerations by judges have included:

  • What the money was used for, such as purchasing the marital home
  • Business investments made with the money
  • Issues weighing more heavily on the uninjured spouse, due to the other’s injury (i.e., childcare)
  • Future needs of the injured party
  • Mental and physical state and abilities of the injured party (i.e., ability to work or self-care)
  • Suffering of each spouse following the injury
  • How the uninjured spouse has used awarded monies during the marriage (i.e., whether they were used for personal benefit)

Judicial Approaches to Award and Settlement Money Division in Divorce

There are two primary approaches to determination of whether settlement or award money is divisible as part of marital assets and how that division should take place. The approaches are mechanical and analytical.

Mechanical Approach to Division of Personal Injury Monies

The mechanical approach is simply based upon the state’s designation of marital property as separate or community. Separate property is anything owned by the individual before entering the marriage, as well as anything acquired as gifts or inheritance during the marriage. Community property is anything acquired during the marriage.

States using the mechanical approach include Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.

But some of these states may use the mechanical approach first in general classification of the total sum, then breaking down the money between the individuals through use of the analytical method.

Analytical Method for Division of Personal Injury Monies

States using the analytical method focus on what the money was awarded to replace, such as bodily harm or physical assets, such as a car. If the award was meant to compensate for loss of one individual’s well-being, the funds are considered separate property.

States using the analytical approach are the same as those designating themselves as “community property states.” There is one exception to this rule, California. California treats personal injury awards as community property if the lawsuit was started during the marriage, regardless of whether the settlement or award is provided before the divorce.

Many equitable distribution states use the analytical method. They classify sub-amounts of the award as marital or separate.

If you have suffered injuries or damages due to an accident, the personal injury attorneys of Cantor Crane can help you gain the insight and answers you need, as well as compensation for your injuries. Call Cantor Crane now at 602-254-2701.


Thanks to our friends and contributors at Cohen and Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into the effects of a traumatic injury on a relationship.

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