Is a Personal Injury Award Marital Property in Georgia?

Personal Injury

In personal injury actions, compensating a wrongfully injured party to the fullest extent possible is of paramount concern.

That is why calculating and proving an injured party’s damages is at the heart of any personal injury claim or litigation.

Once a settlement has been reached or an amount has been awarded, however, there are often questions as to who gets the money.

For married, divorced or divorcing couples, this question can be an especially tricky one because it all boils down to whether or not a personal injury award is marital property.

In other words, is a non-injured spouse entitled to share in the personal injury award of the injured spouse?

The answer to this question depends, of course, on the personal injury and marital property laws of your state.

But here in Georgia, the answer is, “it depends.”

Damages in Personal Injury Cases

As noted briefly above, damages in a personal injury case are meant to compensate the injured person for his or her damages.

The most common types of damages in personal injury actions are:

  • economic and
  • non-economic.

(Because punitive damages are so rarely awarded in car accident cases, we will not discuss them here.)

Economic Damages

Economic damages (also called “special damages) are losses that you can calculate. They tend to be things (for example, invoices and bills) that you can put a dollar value on.

Economic damages include:

  • Medical bills
  • Property damage (repair) bills
  • Lost wages
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses (wrongful death)

Non-economic damages

Non-economic damages on the other hand are damages that are not so easily calculated. They do not show up on an invoice or bill and they cannot easily be reduced to a dollar amount.

Non-economic damages (also called “general damages”) include things like:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Inconvenience
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium

General damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for his/her individual and very personal suffering/damage.

Marital Property and Personal Injury Awards in Georgia

When it comes to marriages and divorces, each state has its own laws on how property is to be divided.

Generally speaking, marital property refers to any property acquired during a marriage.

Property that one spouse brings into the marriage, or property that does not have a marital connection (like gifts or inheritance) is generally considered to be “separate” property.

Personal injury settlements are considered to be a mix of both separate and marital property.

If one spouse gets a personal injury award, whether (or how much) the award is seen as separate property or marital property can be very important —especially if the parties are divorcing.

Each state, of course, will handle this differently because each state has its laws, but in Georgia, when it comes to deciding what is marital property, the courts follow the legal principle of “equitable distribution.”

Equitable Distribution

Equitable distribution does not mean “exactly equal” distribution; rather it means “fair” distribution.

What this means for personal injury settlements is that that in Georgia, the court will apply certain legal principles to divide the settlement in as fair a way as possible between two spouses.

For example, to the extent medical bills or lost wages due to the accident were incurred during the marriage, the court will consider these to be marital property. This makes sense as a personal injury victim will use martial property (i.e., money or savings) to pay for medical expenses, and wages during a marriage are considered marital property.

In contrast, to the extent the personal injury settlement represents compensation to the injured victim for pain and suffering or loss of capacity, that is considered to be highly personal to the individual and not property generated by the marriage—thus is seen as separate property.

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 several 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.

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