During a divorce, your spouse might try to claim some or part of your personal injury settlement or award. However, not all personal injury payments are considered community property in Texas. Before you settle an accident claim or finalize a divorce, you should consult with an experienced attorney.
The Basics of Texas Divorce and Property Division
Texas is a community property state. In other words, during a divorce, Texas couples must identify two types of property:
Community property is distributed equitably during a divorce. It consists of all the property that the couple collectively obtained during the marriage, including income, investments, real estate, personal property, and pensions.
Separate property is not split between spouses during a Texas divorce. It includes most property that a spouse owned before the marriage, gifts made to one spouse, a spouse’s inheritance, and some types of personal injury awards.
However, there are exceptions within these categories. If you do not carefully structure your settlement or award, it might be distributed as community property during your divorce. That means your ex-spouse could end up with some of your settlement or award money.
“If you do not carefully structure your settlement or award, it might be distributed as community property during your divorce. That means your ex-spouse could end up with some of your settlement or award money.”
When Is a Personal Injury Award Considered Community Property in Texas?
While many Texas personal injury awards are considered separate property, you must carefully assess the facts surrounding your claim. You should ask yourself:
- What are the dates of your accident and your separation? If a personal injury occurs during a marriage (even if you file your lawsuit after you and your spouse separate), some of your claims might involve community property.
- Who was the plaintiff in the personal injury case? If you were the sole plaintiff in your accident claim, the award might be deemed separate property.
- Did the award compensate you for lost income or unpaid medical bills? Personal injury, workers’ compensation, and disability awards that are compensation for lost wages or unpaid medical bills typically count as community property in Texas (even if your spouse isn’t named in the claim).
- Did the award compensate you for your pain and suffering? Claims for pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of consortium are typically considered separate property.
- Did you commingle your personal injury award with community property? If you deposited your award or settlement in a shared bank account and you cannot differentiate your settlement funds, it might be community property. Commingling issues can be very complicated. If you mixed community and separate property, you should consult with a family law attorney immediately.
Property division depends on the specific facts of your situation and requires careful legal analysis. The distribution of property is also one of the most contentious parts of a Texas divorce — especially if you have large assets like a personal injury award. To avoid unnecessary disputes, it’s typically in your best interest to consult with a Texas family law attorney before filing for divorce.
How to Protect Your Personal Injury Award During a Texas Divorce
If you have an ongoing personal injury claim, make sure you tell your attorney if you are considering or have filed for divorce. Your San Antonio accident lawyer should coordinate your claim with your divorce attorney, which might help you and your spouse avoid unnecessary disputes.
Additionally, your Texas personal injury lawyer should draft settlement agreements and other documents that clearly allocate and identify separate and community property within your award. For example, your settlement agreement might itemize your award, designating specific amounts for pain and suffering, lost income, and other damages.
Finally, you should keep your personal injury award in a separate bank account that you do not share with your spouse. Isolating your settlement or personal injury award should help you avoid commingling issues.
“Finally, you should keep your personal injury award in a separate bank account that you do not share with your spouse. Isolating your settlement or personal injury award should help you avoid commingling issues.
Crosley Law Firm: Experienced San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyers
Handling a personal injury or accident claim requires extensive knowledge and skill — even without the added complexity of a pending divorce. If you’re an injured Texan who is considering a divorce or has a pending divorce case, it’s important that you work with an experienced team of lawyers. Without legal guidance, you might make costly mistakes that reduce the value of your accident claim or assets.
At Crosley Law Firm, we have the knowledge, skill, and resources to handle personal injury claims and litigation. If you were injured in a car, truck, or other accident, contact us for a free consultation. You can complete our simple online form or call us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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