Consider this: you are going through a divorce and while it is still pending you find yourself involved in a serious car accident which resulted in injuries. What are the legal obligations in a scenario where you are injured and your divorce is not final? Is your soon-to-be-ex-spouse entitled to any of the money to compensate for your injuries?
According to Tennessee law, any monetary proceeds stemming from a personal injury award is considered “marital property”. Other awards and benefits considered marital property include workers’ compensation benefits, social security payments, and other similar actions which involve lost wages during a marriage, medical expenses paid with marital property, and any damage to marital property.
In regard to pain and suffering or loss of consortium? In general, noneconomic damages will not be considered marital property because the injured person is the only one who experienced the pain and suffering following the accident.
As far as loss of consortium, this is a legal basis for a non-injured spouse to receive compensation because the injured spouse cannot fulfill their spousal role because of the injury. Obviously, if you are going through a divorce when the injury occurred, there is no spousal role to fulfill.
However, if the funds from noneconomic damages become mixed with other marital assets, then it may be deemed marital property. For example, you used some of the pain and suffering award to pay the mortgage.
The court in that scenario will decide whether the estranged spouse became liable or helped pay for any of the medical expenses or personal property losses. The practical way to address this situation is to hold the money in trust until such time as the divorce becomes final.
Hopefully, the personal injury award will be one of the many property rights the divorcing couple will consider to reach an out-of-court divorce settlement. If not, then the personal injury award should sit undisturbed in trust and it will be a matter in dispute during the divorce trial and the judge will determine the amount, if any, that must be paid to the estranged spouse.
If you have any questions regarding how divorce will affect a personal injury claim in Tennessee, please contact our Nashville personal injury attorney at Jeff Roberts & Associates, PLLC and schedule a free consultation. In our office EVERY CLIENT MATTERS. Remember, “Stay safe, and stay informed!”