Personal injury actions are brought to seek monetary compensation when someone has been injured as the result of the negligence of another. For married couples, or those who are divorcing when a personal injury award is finally paid, the question arises whether you can share in your spouse’s personal injury award.
Personal Injury Actions and Monetary Damages.
The primary purpose of damages in a personal injury action is to make the injured party “whole.” In other words, the law attempts as much as possible to put the plaintiff in the same position that he (or she) was in before the accident/incident.
To the extent possible, damages are meant to compensate (i.e., pay) the injured plaintiff for the injury caused by the defendant (i.e., the “wrongful” or negligent party).
What type of damages you can recover depends on the type of personal injury case you have, as well as what the laws in your state allow. So it is always best to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer where you live.
Generally speaking, compensatory damages in a personal injury case in Georgia fall into two broad categories:
- Special damages, and
- General damages.
Damages that can be easily calculated, (aka “economic damages”) like medical bills, property repair costs and lost wages, fall into the “special damages” category.
Other injuries that are not easily calculated, like “pain and suffering” or “loss of consortium” fall into the “general damages” (aka non-economic) category.
(Punitive damages also exist, but they are not common because they are only available when a defendant’s actions are so egregious as to warrant punishment.)
Can You Share In Your Spouse’s Personal Injury Award?
In states like Georgia that follow the “equitable distribution” approach to marital property, whether you can share in your spouse’s personal injury award depends on whether the settlement amount is for special damages or general damages.
Briefly, to the extent that an award of special damages (to repay the injured plaintiff for lost wages, medical bills and the like) were paid by marital funds or were costs incurred during the marriage, they are considered “marital” property. Thus, you can share in this portion of your spouse’s personal injury settlement award.
General damages, on the other hand, are paid to an injured plaintiff for injuries that are highly individual and personal to that plaintiff. These are things like emotional distress, or loss of consortium. Money paid to compensate for these types of damages are therefore considered to be the individual’s “separate” property. Separate property, (other examples include gifts and inheritance) belongs to the individual, not to the marital community. Therefore, to the extent a personal injury settlement is to compensate your spouse for his or her general damages, you may not share in that portion of the award.
Personal Injury Attorneys in Cumming, Georgia.
The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C., are here to help you. We serve clients in Atlanta, and in a number of counties throughout Georgia, including: Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Douglas County, Fulton County, and Paulding County, among others. To find out how we can help you, call us at: 770-888-7707. Or contact us here.