One of my new clients was injured in a drunk driving accident. As a lawyer practicing in midtown Atlanta and Fulton County, I hear the question she posed often. Do spouses split the settlement received from a drunk driving accident? Here’s the answer.
Pain and suffering is not shared. A personal injury settlement includes payment for medical bills as well as pain and suffering (which includes damages for things like anxiety, shock, worry, physical pain and bodily impairments). The pain and suffering claim is considered personal to the injured person. As such, it is not shared with that person’s spouse. It belongs to the injured party. This is true for settlements involving a drunk driving accident as well as most all other injury claims, at least in Georgia (which includes the midtown Atlanta and Fulton County areas).
Medical bills paid by one spouse can be recovered. The non injured spouse may seek repayment of any money he paid toward the injured spouse’s medical treatment. Here is an example: Joe and Kim are married. Kim is injured in a drunk driving accident, hires a lawyer and pursues a claim. In turn, Kim’s personal injury lawyer asserts a claim for damages against the drunk driver’s insurance company which is located in Atlanta. Kim had no health insurance. So, Kim’s husband Joe paid Kim’s doctors $10,000.00 out of his pocket. Kim’s personal injury lawyer settled the DUI claim for a total of $100,000.00. Kim and Joe are now in the process of divorce. Joe claims one half of the $100,000 settlement as marital property. Joe is entitled to the amount of money he paid toward Kim’s medical bills. However, he cannot share in any part of the recovery for Kim’s pain and suffering. Hence, Joe gets $10,000.00 (the amount he paid for medical bills) and Kim gets $90,000.00 (reflecting the balance of the $100,000 DUI settlement).
This situation sometimes occurs where parties are obtaining a divorce. Here’s my disclaimer: if you are in that situation, this post is only intended for informational purposes and is not offered for specific legal advice.
- Five Steps to Select the Right Personal Injury Lawyer
- Facts to Know When Hiring a Lawyer
- Settlement Value, is the DUI Driver a “Pro?”