When it comes to personal injury settlements, there are many factors to consider. In Louisiana, the division of marital property is guided by specific laws. So, if you’re wondering whether your spouse is entitled to a share of your personal injury settlement, it’s important to understand the intricacies of marital property division in Louisiana, the difference between community property and separate property, and how it applies to personal injury compensation.
How Marital Property Is Divided in Louisiana
In Louisiana, marital property is divided using the community property system. This means that assets acquired during the marriage, regardless of who earned or purchased them, are considered community property and are typically divided equally between spouses.
Separate property, which includes assets owned before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance, is not subject to division. It’s important to understand the difference between community property and separate property, especially when it comes to the division of a personal injury settlement in a divorce case.
In Louisiana, community property laws apply to married couples. This means that any property acquired during the marriage is considered community property and belongs to both spouses equally.
This can include but is not limited to:
- Income earned during the marriage
- Real estate and other property purchased during the marriage
- Retirement benefits acquired during the marriage
Separate property refers to assets that each spouse acquired before the marriage, such as a car, a house, or land. However, complications can arise when separate property becomes communal property.
For example, if separate funds are used to purchase a family home or if an inheritance is placed in a joint account, it may be considered communal property.
In the case of a personal injury settlement, whether it is considered community property or separate property (or both) depends on several factors that we will discuss a little further down in this blog post.
Exceptions to Communal Property Laws
Exceptions to communal property laws in Louisiana can affect the division of assets, including personal injury settlements. While community property laws generally consider assets acquired during marriage to be community property, exceptions come into play in certain circumstances.
For example, if a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement is being challenged, the validity of such an agreement can impact the division of assets. Disproportionate earning capacities between spouses can also play a role in the division.
If one spouse earns significantly more than the other, it may affect property is divided. Moreover, if one spouse serves as the primary caregiver to minor children, it can be a determining factor in the division of assets.
Is a Personal Injury Settlement Considered Community Property or Separate Property?
In Louisiana, the classification of a personal injury settlement as community or separate property depends on various factors. One key factor is the type of damages awarded.
- Economic damages: This includes compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. In most cases, economic damages are considered community property because they are meant to compensate for actual financial losses that affect the entire household.
- Non-economic damages: This category covers compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and other intangible losses. In Louisiana, non-economic damages are generally viewed as separate property because they are more personal in nature and unique to the individual who suffered the injury.
Other factors such as the timing of the injury and the use of community funds can also impact the classification.
How Does Fault Affect the Division of Communal Property?
In Louisiana, fault may impact the division of communal property. In cases where one spouse is responsible for the marriage ending, a judge may choose to grant a greater proportion of the total community property as they see fit. This can include economic damages from a personal injury lawsuit.
Loss of Consortium and Personal Injury Settlements
Loss of consortium refers to the harm inflicted on a spouse’s relationship when the other spouse experiences an injury or loss. It encompasses the loss of companionship, affection, intimacy, and support. In personal injury cases, loss of consortium can be claimed by the uninjured spouse.
To be successful in such a claim, the uninjured spouse must prove the marriage was intact before the accident and that their spouse’s injuries caused damage to their relationship.
What If Your Personal Injury Case Is Still Pending at the Time of the Divorce?
If your personal injury case is still unresolved when you file for divorce, it will be treated as community property in Louisiana. The court may divide the settlement between you and your spouse according to community property laws.
Get Help with a Louisiana Personal Injury Claim
A family law attorney can best advise you on to resolve issues regarding division of a personal injury settlement in a divorce proceeding. Before you can divide a settlement though, first you must be successful in your claim. The New Orleans personal injury lawyers at Lambert Zainey Smith & Soso have more than 40 years of experience in handling personal injury cases, and we can help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries.
We understand the importance of protecting your rights. Call 800-521-1750 today to schedule a free consultation.