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Are Injury Awards Considered Marital Property in a RI Divorce?

Whether you suffered an injury caused by negligence or occurred at the workplace, recovering compensation to pay for your losses can be stressful. However, if you are going through a divorce during your personal injury or workers’ compensation case, the entire process can be more emotionally overwhelming. 

You may be wondering if your award or settlement will be subject to property division. While your soon-to-be-ex spouse may obtain some of the damages, other parts are considered separate property for you to keep. 

Personal Injury Awards 

According to Rhode Island law, damages in a personal injury award or settlement that replace property acquired or that would have been acquired during the marriage are considered marital property. Common examples include lost wages, medical expenses incurred during the marriage, or otherwise losses sustained by the marital estate. 

On the other hand, pain and suffering damages are not subject to equitable distribution. State law says that pain and suffering damages compensate for or replaces personal property – like a spouse’s good health – that was obtained prior to the marriage. When it comes to future lost income, future medical bills, and future loss of earning capacity, these damages are considered separate property. 

Workers’ Compensation Benefits 

Rhode Island courts apply the same standard of personal injury awards to workers’ compensation settlements. Thus, payments for past lost wages and past medical bills constitute as marital property subject to equitable distribution, while payments – whether they consist of a one-time lump sum or scheduled payments – that compensate for disfigurement and/or loss of use of a limb and payments for future income or medical expenses are considered separate property. 

SSI & SSDI Benefits 

Since Social Security benefits protect the beneficiary and their dependents from creditor claims, they are not treated by state courts as property. However, a spouse may obtain such benefits for child or spousal support, rather than property division. 

If you are interested in filing for divorce in Kent County, contact the Law Office of Steven J. Hart today at (888) 701-0919. Our firm has more than two decades of legal experience! 

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