Puja Sachdev | April 8, 2022 | California Law
An at-fault driver can be held liable for damages that exceed their liability car insurance coverage. The minimum liability coverage required for car insurance in California is $15,000 for injury or death to one person.
Therefore, if your spouse causes a car accident, the accident victim might file a lawsuit against your spouse for damages. If the accident victim receives a judgment, your spouse might have to liquidate assets to pay the judgment.
Can My Assets Be Used to Pay for a Car Accident My Spouse Caused in San Diego?
According to car accident lawyers in San Diego, even though you did not cause a car accident, your assets could be in danger if your spouse causes a car crash. That is because California is a community property state.
Community property is any property you own together during your marriage.
For example, any money you earn during your marriage is considered community property. Likewise, any assets you purchase with the money you earned during your marriage are community property, regardless of how the property is titled.
Therefore, community property could include, but is not limited to:
- Real estate
- Motor vehicles
- Bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other financial holdings
- Wages and income
- Art, collectibles, and antiques
- Clothing and personal belongings
On the other hand, separate property refers to the property you owned before marriage. It also includes property given to you alone or inherited by you alone during your marriage.
If an accident victim receives a judgment against your spouse for a car wreck, the person could pursue legal action to seize assets to pay the judgment. Let’s assume you earned most of the money to purchase the assets you and your spouse acquired during your marriage. Even so, a court could order the liquidation of those assets to pay for your spouse’s debt from a car accident.
However, only your spouse’s assets can be used to pay for a car accident judgment. Therefore, your separate property should be safe.
Can I Protect My Property From Being Used to Pay a Judgment After My Spouses Causes a Car Accident?
It is frightening to think that your assets could be sold to pay your spouse’s debts, especially when you are in the middle of a divorce action. For this reason, many couples take steps to protect their assets. Ways that you can protect assets from being used for your spouse’s debts include:
Never Comingle Separate Property
Separate property can become community property if you are not careful.
For example, if you deposit money you inherited into a joint checking account with your spouse, the inheritance becomes community property. Likewise, if you use inherited funds to purchase a vacation home titled in your and your spouse’s names, the vacation home is community property.
It is best to keep all gifts given only to you and inheritances separate from community assets. Also, avoid commingling assets you owned before the marriage with the property you acquired after the marriage.
Enter a Prenuptial Agreement
Prenuptial agreements can help protect separate property. They define who owns the property acquired before and during the marriage. A prenuptial agreement will not protect you if you commingle assets or purchase community property. Still, it could help you argue that specific assets have always maintained separate property status.
Convert Property to Separate Property
You and your spouse could enter into a contract revoking your spouse’s interest and ownership rights in specific assets. This step could help protect some assets from being seized to pay a car accident claim.
However, your spouse would need to agree to this proposal. If you are going through a divorce, your spouse may not willingly give up their rights to claim assets as community property.
Seek Legal Advice Regarding Your Options
The best way to protect your assets is to understand the law. Therefore, talking to an experienced divorce lawyer as soon as possible should be a priority.
An attorney analyzes your situation to provide options for protecting yourself and your property. A lawyer reviews the pros and cons of each option. With this information, you can determine how to protect your assets after your spouse causes a car accident.
Contact Our Family Law Firm in San Diego, CA
San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108