Occasionally couples are faced with dividing a personal injury damage award. If, for example, the husband or wife were involved in an auto accident for which someone else was at fault, the party who was injured might receive (or be entitled to receive in the future) a sum of money for the damages. When the couple divorces, who is entitled to the damage award?
States take different approaches to the issue. Some states view the award as separate or non marital property. Thus, all of the damage award belongs to the injured party. Courts in those states reason that the injury was suffered by only one spouse, and the damage award was designed to make the injured spouse whole. Therefore, all of the damage award belongs to the injured spouse.
In some personal injury lawsuits, there are two damage awards: one for the spouse who received the physical injury and another damage award for the spouse of the injured party to compensate that spouse for loss of companionship, or consortium, that resulted from the injury. (Loss of consortium refers to loss of sexual relations and, under some definitions, the term also refers to loss of general companionship.) If a state treated damage awards as separate or non-marital property, each spouse would be entitled to his or her own damage award, but they would not be entitled to any portion of their partner’s award.