Accidents can happen to anyone. What if, because of a third party’s negligence, a spouse gets hurt, files a personal injury lawsuit, and receives a major settlement? Is at least part of the compensation proceeds entitled to the other spouse?
You will want to at least speak to an attorney who specializes in family law and personal injury regarding your legal interests and rights to be covered in both your divorce case and personal injury case. You must consult with one of our Massachusetts personal injury attorney ’s at the Bellotti Law Group P.C.
What is Marital Property?
All items, interests, and assets acquired by a couple during their marriage are included in marital property in Massachusetts. It is not treated as property that was purchased before the marriage began by either party. Property that someone acquires before marriage is normally separate property that cannot be divided by the court.
What does Massachusetts Law have to say about personal injury settlements?
Massachusetts law usually mandates that the division of property in a divorce be equitable, which means that it must be fair, but not necessarily equal. Some couples are willing to agree on how to divide property on their own, while others seek the assistance of lawyers or a mediator to help them settle. Couples who cannot manage to fix property disputes on their own will end up going to court to ask an arbitrator or a judge for a ruling.
Under Massachusetts law, the proceeds of a personal injury settlement are part of the “divisible estate” of a party in matters of divorce. Even a possible personal injury settlement is a divisible asset, the courts have ruled since the loss involved and affected both partners during the marriage.
In 1991, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the Massachusetts case of Dalessio v. Dalessio. The husband had suffered a workplace accident in which he lost his arm in that situation. He brought a suit and recovered a $3,000,000 judgment on personal injuries, and his wife recovered a $1,000,000 judgment; the two totaled around $7,000,000 with interest. In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court remarked that:
“the husband’s proceeds from the personal injury suit undeniably would have been part of his divisible estate had he not exchanged them for an annuity. The character of the proceeds as property within his § 34 assignable estate does not change simply because he used them to purchase an annuity.”
Importantly, according to Massachusetts law, the Dalessio court ruled that personal injury award damages for lost potential earnings are simply divisible. In brief, Dalessio shows clearly that, under Massachusetts law, personal injury settlement proceeds fall squarely within the scope of “marital assets.”
The fact that a case is still ongoing at the time of the divorce would not change the outcome since the injured partner will be able to manipulate the argument to gain money after the divorce through a contrary judgment, thereby keeping the asset from being divided.
Contact our Massachusetts Injury Attorney
If you are concerned about your personal injury settlement and your property, you must consult with one of our ma personal injury attorneys. At Bellotti Law Group, P.C. our skilled Massachusetts injury attorneys are committed to providing our clients with exceptional service with their personal injury cases.