Your Spouse and Your Personal Injury Settlement
It is finally time to settle your case, and your attorney calls to tell you that both you and your spouse must come in to sign paperwork. Why would the insurance company put both of you on the check when you were the only one injured?
Most people believe that the insurance companies list both spouses because Louisiana is a community property state and, therefore, each spouse is entitled to their share of a settlement. As an accident attorney in New Orleans, I can tell you that this is not the case.
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Personal Injury Settlements and Community Property
Although Louisiana is a community property state, any funds received by one spouse as pain and suffering damages is NOT considered community property. However, if that spouse also received a portion of the outstanding bills or reimbursement of lost wages in addition to pain and suffering, then their spouse is entitled to half because all debts are community property.
Loss of Consortium and Personal Injury Settlements
The real reason insurance companies include both spouses on the Release and checks is because whenever your spouse is injured, you have a right to a Loss of Consortium Claim for any effects the injury has on your marital relationship. Typically these awards are small and can only be pursued via litigation. It’s important to note, if only the injured spouse settles, the uninjured spouse can still maintain a cause of action against the insurance company. For that reason, both are required to consent to the settlement as “full and final,” so the insurance company can ensure there will be no further action on the claim.
If your spouse does want to pursue a Loss of Consortium claim, do not sign the paperwork and talk to your attorney about the pros and cons of doing so.