Is a Personal Injury Award Part of the Marital Estate in a Divorce?

Dividing property and finances that were obtained throughout a couple’s marriage can be one of the biggest hurdles to a divorce.  Determining how property is distributed to each party, whether it is divided equally or considered community property, is a decision that is left up to the courts. Property that was received prior to the marriage continues to be in the possession of the spouse who initially owned it. Depending on the property division laws of the state you live in, a personal injury award could be regarded as property of both spouses and divided equally.

When Personal Injury Awards Are Considered Marital Property

There are different types of damages that a person who has filed a personal injury claim may be entitled to collect. Damages for personal injury may include:

  • Lost wages
  • Limitations on future earning capabilities
  • Medical expenses, both past and future
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering

Economic damages are usually divided between the two parties in a divorce. Most of the time, damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress are awarded to one person because they were the ones who suffered as a result of the injury.  

Community Property

In states that observe community property, chances are spouses will each receive a portion of the settlement money in the divorce. This would include all economic damages that may have been awarded in the settlement and would likely be equally distributed to the two parties. In community property states, damages for pain and suffering are considered the property of the person who received the injury and are not required to be shared with the other party. It is important to note that in some states, the personal injury settlement will be considered community property if it happened while you were married.

Equitable Division

Although each state has variations when it comes to divorce law, many observe equitable division. If during the marriage, you were injured and received a personal injury settlement, some states will consider the claim to be the property of both spouses. This would also include non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

When going through a divorce, sorting out how assets, including your personal injury award, will be determined can be a complicated process.  Working with a divorce attorney, like a divorce lawyer Tampa FL can turn to, who understands personal injury law can help to translate some of the legal process.  With their guidance, you will be able to have a clear understanding of the process as you experience it.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Mckinney Law Group for their insight into family law.