Category: Personal Injury

How Are Personal Injury Settlements Divided in a Divorce?

How Are Personal Injury Settlements Divided in a Divorce?

When someone else causes another person harm or injury, the at-fault party can be held financially liable for damages. The victim could receive a personal injury settlement that includes reimbursement for their economic damages. The personal injury settlement could also include compensation for non-economic damages.

If a party is single, the settlement amount is that person’s property. However, what happens to a personal injury settlement in California or Nevada during a divorce?

California and Nevada Are Community Property States

Most states divide property in a divorce according to an equitable division between spouses. “Equitable” does not always mean equal. For example, a judge could decide that equitable is a 70/30 split or a 60/40 split.

However, California and Nevada are community property states. In a community property state, the spouses divide all marital assets equally during a divorce. Marital assets typically include all income and property acquired during the marriage.

Separate property refers to assets owned before the marriage. Additionally, inheritance and gifts received during the marriage are considered separate property. The spouse would need to commingle or convert the property to marital assets to be included as community property. 

When a spouse receives a personal injury settlement, it could be considered separate or marital property. It depends on several factors.

California’s Divorce Laws Related to Personal Injury Settlements 

In California, a personal injury settlement is separate property. California Family Code §781 states the settlement is not subject to property division. On the other hand, California Family Code §780 and California Family Code §2603 discuss personal injury settlements as community property. 

The laws seem to contradict each other. However, when you analyze the statutes, you find that personal injury settlements are separate property if:

  • The injury occurred after the parents were legally separated or divorced
  • A spouse causes injury to the other spouse
  • The spouses were not living together when the injury occurred
  • The injury occurred before the marriage

A non-injured spouse could claim a portion of the personal injury settlement. They could receive reimbursement for medical bills and other expenses they paid. 

A judge determines how to divide the settlement proceeds when personal injury settlements are community property. The judge considers each spouse’s economic condition and needs when determining how to split the proceeds. However, the maximum amount a non-injured spouse can receive is 50% of the personal injury settlement. 

In some cases, an ex-spouse could receive a portion of an ex’s personal injury settlement. However, the accident or injury would have had to occur before the parties were divorced, and the judge must determine the proceeds are community property.

Nevada’s Divorce Laws Related to Personal Injury Settlements 

Nevada also has laws that address personal injury settlements. Nevada Revised Statute §123.130 states personal injury settlements received before marriage are separate property. The settlement proceeds remain separate property unless converted to community property. 

A personal injury settlement received during the marriage could be community property. If only one spouse receives the settlement during the marriage, it is considered separate property. 

However, Nevada Revised Statute §123.121 refers to situations when the spouses file a joint action. The division of the settlement proceeds depends on how the money is classified in the settlement agreement.

For example, pain and suffering damages are paid to the person who sustained the injuries. Damages for loss of consortium are paid to the non-injured spouse. Settlement proceeds reimbursing the parties for medical bills and expenses are considered community property. 

Nevada law does not explicitly mention lost wages. However, a judge would likely consider a personal injury settlement for lost wages community property because income during a marriage is community property. 

Seek Legal Advice To Protect Your Rights and Best Interests 

The laws governing personal injury settlements during a divorce can be confusing and complicated. In addition, other factors could impact the outcome in your case. 

The best way to protect your right to a personal injury settlement during a divorce is to seek legal advice. Consulting a personal injury lawyer can help you keep a settlement award that should be your money. 

How To Find the Best Personal Injury Attorney in Florida

How To Find the Best Personal Injury Attorney in Florida

If you’ve been in an accident in Florida, you may have realized that the bills pile up quickly. You may have medical expenses related to your injuries, but those same injuries might keep you from working and earning income. You might not know where to turn. A personal injury lawyer is a good start.

If someone else’s negligence is responsible for your injuries, they may be liable for your damages. A personal injury attorney can help you pursue those damages through a personal injury claim. They can help you obtain compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. They can help you move forward after an accident and regain a sense of financial security.

To be sure, there are a lot of personal injury lawyers in the Sunshine State. We put together this article to help you find the best attorney for your situation. 

Identifying Personal Injury Lawyers Near You

When you are looking for a personal injury lawyer, you should begin your search by gathering a handful of names. There are many sources that can help you.

Referrals from Friends and Family

Your family and friends may be one of your best sources for identifying a strong personal injury lawyer. If they had an injury case in the past, they can direct you to the attorney who got them a successful result. Alternatively, they may be able to help you steer clear of an attorney with whom they had a negative experience. Even if your family or friends have not had an injury case, they may still know of attorneys who practice personal injury law. 

Lawyers (in other practice areas), judges, and paralegals can also be great sources of information for determining which injury lawyers have a strong reputation in your community.

Legal Directories

Legal directories are another excellent place to locate skilled personal injury lawyers in your area.

The most helpful legal directories are:

  • Avvo – rates attorneys on a scale of 1 to 10 based on profile information and public data available on the attorney. 
  • Martindale-Hubbell – rates attorneys based on peer reviews of the attorney
  • FindLaw – rates lawyers according to the average of all ratings submitted for the lawyer or organization.
  • Justia – rates lawyers based on peer-to-peer reviews

You should look for an attorney who has high ratings on these directories. Ideally, you should look for an attorney who has favorable ratings from colleagues and former clients. For example, Bill Allen, an experienced Gainesville personal injury lawyer, enjoys a “9.8 – Superb” rating on Avvo and an “AV-Preeminent” rating on Martindale Hubbell.

Gainesville Personal Injury Lawyer Bill Allen Avvo Rating

As a Florida personal injury lawyer, Bill is proud to earn high marks from legal rating services because they reflect his experience, skill, and ethics in Florida personal injury law.

Lawyer Referral Services

The Florida State Bar has a lawyer referral service for the public. When you use this service, you will briefly describe your legal situation and provide the service with a way to contact you. 

The service will match you with a lawyer based on your needs and geographic location. You can then connect with that lawyer to discuss your injury claim. Keep in mind the service may not necessarily screen lawyers for quality. It’s focused more on location and practice area.

Online Searches

Search engines are always a nice place to find information about lawyers in your area. However, the law firms that appear first on Google may not be the best for your legal situation; they may just have the biggest marketing budgets.

Therefore, you shouldn’t only rely on Google rankings to make your decision. Instead, examine the attorney’s reviews and ratings on legal directories as mentioned above.

Meet With Prospective Attorneys – Most Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Offer a Free Consultation

After you have identified a few potential lawyers in Florida, you should schedule free consultations with each attorney. Speaking to multiple lawyers will help you get a feel of what you want and don’t want in a lawyer. It will help you find an attorney that is compatible with your legal needs.

You should use the free consultation to get as much information as possible about your injury claim. You should also ask specific questions about the lawyer’s services.

Consider asking:

By asking these questions, you will be able to set clear expectations about your case and attorney. These questions will also facilitate a healthy relationship with your attorney and minimize misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Selecting the Right Florida Personal Injury Attorney to Represent You

To have the best odds of a successful personal injury claim, you should make sure your attorney has certain skills. These skills can be the difference between receiving maximum compensation for your injuries and receiving nothing at all.

Organization Skills

There are a lot of moving parts in a personal injury case. There are filings, investigations, deadlines, etc. Your lawyer needs to be able to manage each stage and filing of a case effectively. Missing a deadline or hearing can have disastrous consequences for your claim.

You also need to make sure your lawyer has the skills to organize and track all documents and evidence in your case. This evidence will be critical for helping you prove liability in your case and achieving a favorable result.

Knowledge of Florida Personal Injury Law

Your lawyer needs to understand and apply Florida injury and insurance law to make the most of your case. These laws, including comparative fault rules and statutes of limitation, can be highly technical. You may not want a lawyer who is a generalist or who typically practices criminal law.

Experience Handling Your Type of Accident Case

You don’t only want a lawyer who has experience in personal injury law. You also want a lawyer who has experience handling your type of personal injury case.

Not all personal injury cases are created equal. Some arise from motor vehicle accidents. Some from medical malpractice. Some from other incidents. 

You need a lawyer who understands the nuances of your injury case and knows what proof they need to offer to win your claim.

Excellent Communication and Negotiation Skills

Most personal injury claims settle. Insurance companies and other defendants prefer not to risk trial if they can settle for a reasonable sum. Therefore, your lawyer needs high-level negotiating skills. They need to be able to leverage their skills and the evidence in your case to make the at-fault party pay fair compensation.

Your lawyer also needs to be able to explain technical legal concepts simply. If they can do this for you in a free consultation, it’s likely that they can do it in front of a judge and jury, also.

Hire a Top Florida Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Case

Hopefully, this guide has equipped you with strategies for finding the best Florida personal injury lawyer for your case. If you choose the right attorney, your case should proceed smoothly through the different stages. It may take a few tries to find the right attorney, but the effort will have been well worth it if the attorney helps maximize your compensation after your accident.

How Do You Write an Effective Settlement Demand Letter?

Personal injury accidents are extremely common. New York City alone suffered nearly 10,000 motor vehicle accidents in the month of July 2021, many of them involving serious injuries. When you have a personal injury claim, you send a settlement demand letter to the defendant or to the defendant’s insurance company. This letter describes your claim and demands that the opposing party compensate you for your losses. 

The settlement demand letter is the first step in negotiations with the opposing party that could lead to a generous settlement. That is why your settlement demand letter needs to be persuasive and effective. You should ask your lawyer to draft the demand letter. If you draft it yourself, at least allow a lawyer to review it.

Writing Tips

Following are a few tips that can help you maximize the effectiveness of your settlement demand letter:

Create an Outline of Your Settlement Demand Letter Before You Write It

A settlement demand letter is usually structured something like this:

  • A brief description of the accident
  • A description of your injuries;
  • Why the other party is responsible for your injuries
  • What medical treatment you have received, and how much it cost;
  • The amount of your lost earnings;
  • The amount of any other losses you suffered;
  • Why you’re qualified to make a claim to the insurance company despite New York’s no-fault auto insurance system; and
  • A demand for compensation.

Use the foregoing as a general guide to structuring your demand letter. You might need to vary it somewhat depending on the specific facts surrounding your claim.

Use a Polite and Professional Tone

You might be very angry. In fact, if your claim is valid, your anger is likely justified. Don’t let any of that anger creep into your settlement demand letter. Human nature dictates that such a tactic is likely to be counterproductive. Your tome should be polite and professional. That doesn’t mean you can’t be firm at the same time.

Keep It Brief, But Not Too Brief

There is no point in writing a long letter that nobody is going to read. On the other hand, it is not a good idea to assume that your reader is familiar with any of the facts of your case.

The insurance company adjuster who reads your letter is probably busy with many claims. Say everything you need to say, but say it briefly, logically, and concisely. 

Issue a Compensation Demand

Depending on the circumstances, you might demand the entire policy limit from an insurance company. You might do this if the total value of your claim clearly exceeds these limits. If your claim is below policy limits, at least pad your demand to give yourself some bargaining room. Some lawyers prefer not to insert a specific dollar demand into an initial demand letter, only a general demand for compensation.

Set a Deadline for A Response

Set a specific deadline or a response from the opposing party. You don’t need to demand that the opposing party pay the settlement by that date, but you do need to demand a response by that date. If the opposing party ignores you, you might consider filing a lawsuit in response.

Keep Copies of Everything

Keep copies of every document that you receive that is in any way related to your case. Make sure you have a copy of your medical bills, for example. If you were involved in a car accident, you might request an accident report from the police department. During settlement negotiations, you will need evidence to back up your claim. 

Send By Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested

Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, to make it more difficult for the opposing party to deny that they received it.

A Lawyer on Your Side Can Make All the Difference

If you’re trying to settle a small claim, it might not be worth it for you to seek out the services of a personal injury lawyer. If your claim involves a significant amount of money, or you suspect that it does, contact a lawyer to find out for sure. Even a free initial consultation might be enough to get a general idea of the value of your claim.