Author Archives: Ryan BrownAuthorChestnut RidgeNY

Can You Sue Your Spouse for Personal Injury?

Can spouses sue each other for personal injury? After all, one spouse may do things that are unsafe to the other, either intentionally or unwittingly.

At one point in history, spouses were not legally allowed to sue each other for personal injury, due to a general principle called “interspousal immunity.” Why? Well, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a married couple was legally considered one entity. A wife was not legally separate from a husband. Interspousal immunity essentially meant that one part of a legal entity could not sue another part.

In addition, courts felt that spouses suing each other destroyed the harmony of a family.

What Constitutes “Personal Injury”?

Personal injury, under the law, is an injury to someone caused by another party’s negligence. To be negligent, the party must have had a duty of care (a responsibility to make something safe), to have known that something was not safe, have had sufficient time to rectify the situation, and have not rectified it or acted recklessly. Personal injuries can be caused by situations as disparate as the purchase of unsafe holiday toys, improper maintenance of chemicals in the home, and car accidents, to name just three examples.

Spouses Can Sue Each Other for Personal Injury, With Some Exceptions

However, beginning with women’s right to vote in the early twentieth century and progressing through the feminist movement that began in the 1970s, this concept was increasingly struck down. Women were increasingly given rights and legal standing. As a result, a married couple is now increasingly considered two separate people with rights for many legal purposes.

The laws on interspousal immunity evolved accordingly. Spouses won the right to sue each other for intentionally inflicting damage first, in general, and then won the right to sue for negligent action. In most jurisdictions, they now have both.

So the answer to the question “can you sue your spouse for personal injury?” is yes in many states, with some exceptions.

Possible Exceptions

One exception in some states is the right to sue a spouse who has caused the other spouse an injury in an automobile accident. Insurance companies are concerned about the possibility of collusion, where spouses may plan together to submit a false accident claim to an insurance company.

Some states, though, will allow spouses to purchase supplemental insurance that allows for the future possibility of bringing a personal injury lawsuit in the case of a car accident, provided that the accident was caused by a spouse’s negligence.

Some home insurance policies also do not allow one spouse to sue another, for similar reasons.

Because the law on whether one spouse can sue another is somewhat complex, it is prudent to consult an attorney about the laws and ramifications in your state. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you on laws concerning spousal immunity and on any supplements allowed in your state of residence.

If You Need a New York or New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer

The seasoned personal injury attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have been handling all matters pertaining to personal injury in New York and New Jersey, including car accidents, for more than four decades.

We will explain your rights and possible scenarios thoroughly. We are committed to long-lasting, fair, and reliable solutions that benefit you. All initial personal injury law consultations are complimentary. Call us today toll free at (800) 711-5258.

Additional resources:

  1. Property Casualty 360, 10 red flags that could signal a fraudulent Auto claim,
  2. Cornell Law School, Spousal Immunity,
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How to Let Your Spouse Know You Are Filing for Divorce

Woman divorcing and taking off wedding bandIf you are thinking about filing for divorce, it’s important to know how to let your spouse know it. In some couples, the idea of divorce may be in one partner’s mind, but far from the other’s. In others, there may be dissatisfaction or even counseling and separation, but not an agreement on divorce.

There are two aspects to letting your spouse know: the emotional and the legal.

Emotional Aspects

You need to let your spouse know respectfully that you are filing for divorce. First, you need to choose a place and time when you will have some time to discuss your plans. It needs to be a place where you can talk privately and without interruption, especially by phones, other adults, or your children.

Second, plan what you will say. You will to make it clear that you are moving ahead with divorce. Never equivocate. The break has to be clearly stated, or arguments can ensue, especially if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce or is highly anxious or agitated about the prospect.

Third, never blame your spouse during the discussion. That only lays the groundwork for recrimination later on. You must separate for the happiness of both should be your message.

Fourth, if possible, emphasize your desire to reach a fair settlement in terms of spousal support and children. 

Can I File for Divorce Without Notifying My Spouse?

Note that the initial discussion is just for information between you and a spouse. It has no legal standing.

For divorce proceedings to begin, you will need to visit an attorney specializing in divorce or family law.

Sometimes, we are asked if a divorce filing can be done without notifying a spouse. While it is possible to begin the proceedings without notification, a spouse must eventually be served court papers, called a divorce petition or summons, that indicate a divorce action is pending in court.

These papers must be filed in the appropriate court, and are then served to the spouse.

There are several ways to serve these papers, including via mail, a process server, or hand delivery by a person neither yourself nor one of your children. Your lawyer can advise you as to the customary method.

One of the points of serving the papers is so the spouse can respond if the divorce is to be contested.

If You Need a Divorce Lawyer in New York or New Jersey

If you need a Rockland County divorce lawyer, Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have been helping clients with divorce and related processes in New York and New Jersey for more than 40 years.

If talks with your spouse are not viable, we can negotiate and fight for your rights via litigation.

We are here to guide you through a range of issues, such as child custody, visitation rights, child support, alimony and spousal support, division of marital assets, modification after divorce, parental relocation, and conservatorships.

Additional Resources:

  1. Dillon, Cheryl. “How To Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce.” Equitable Mediation.
  2. Margulies, Sam. “Telling Your Spouse You Want a Divorce.” Psychology Today. November 12, 2009.
  3. Women’ How To Serve Divorce Papers.
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