A car accident can be extremely frustrating. In addition to dealing with your injuries and property damage claims, the other driver might sue you for damages. If so, you could be liable for a substantial judgment. 

However, what happens when your spouse causes a car accident during a divorce? Could the injured party try to take your assets to satisfy your spouse’s financial responsibility? Keep reading to find out.

Determining Liability for a Car Accident Claim 

States like Georgia and Texas are at-fault states for car accident claims. The injured party must prove a negligence claim to recover compensation for damages. 

Therefore, the accident victim must prove the following elements for your spouse to be liable for damages:

  • Duty of Care – Your spouse owed the accident victim a duty of care
  • Breach of Duty – Your spouse’s actions or omissions breached the duty of care owed to the accident victim
  • Causation – Your spouse’s conduct must have been a direct and proximate cause of the car accident
  • Damages – The accident victim sustained damages because of the accident

If the accident victim can prove your spouse caused the accident that resulted in their damages, your spouse could be liable for the victim’s economic and non-economic damages. Depending on the severity of the person’s injuries and monetary losses, your spouse could be liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, permanent impairments could increase the value of damages to millions of dollars.

At-fault states like Georgia and Texas require drivers to have minimum amounts of liability insurance for automobile accidents. However, the minimum coverage might not compensate the accident victim in full. In that case, the victim could seek a judgment for damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit against your spouse. 

After receiving a judgment, the person might pursue other legal remedies for collecting on the judgment, including seizing assets to satisfy the debt.

Distinguishing Between Community Property and Equipment Division of Assets 

Before answering your question about whether your assets are in danger if your spouse causes an accident during divorce, we need to determine your interest in the assets. 

Some states like California and Texas are community property states. In a community property state, all assets and income acquired during the marriage are considered marital assets. Marital assets are divided equally in a divorce.

However, most states are equitable division states, including Georgia. Under equitable division, a judge determines what would be a fair distribution of marital assets in a Georgia divorce. For example, in some cases, a fair distribution might be a 50-50 split, but in other cases, fair might be a 70-30 split. 

Marital Property Could Be at Risk for a Car Accident Claim 

If you live in a community property state, all assets and income acquired during your marriage could be at risk if your spouse causes a car accident during your divorce. It would not matter whether you earned the income or acquired the assets. 

Community property remains part of the marital estate until the divorce is final. Therefore, it is subject to debts that either spouse incurs. However, there is an exception.

Separate property belongs only to one spouse. It includes the property the spouse owned before the marriage that has not been commingled with or converted to marital property. Separate property also includes inheritances and gifts during the marriage that were maintained as separate property.

Separate property would not be subject to a personal injury judgment against your spouse. This situation is also true in states that use an equitable distribution of assets.

In an equitable distribution state, marital property is also at risk if your spouse causes a car accident during your divorce. However, your separate property would remain safe from the personal injury judgment. 

What Should I Do if My Spouse Causes a Car Accident During Our Divorce?

Contact your divorce lawyer immediately to notify them of the car accident. Your lawyer can help you take steps to protect as many of the assets as possible from liability for your spouse’s accident.

If your spouse was injured in the car accident, you could be entitled to a portion of compensation they receive for a personal injury settlement. The laws regarding ownership of personal injury settlements in a divorce differ by state.

Your divorce attorney analyzes the situation to determine if the injury settlement is subject to property settlement during the divorce.

Contact the Divorce Lawyers at Crystal Wright Law To Get Legal Assistance Today

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.