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.
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.
- Property Casualty 360, 10 red flags that could signal a fraudulent Auto claim, https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2016/03/16/10-red-flags-that-could-signal-a-fraudulent-auto-c/?slreturn=20190009170708
- Cornell Law School, Spousal Immunity, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/spousal_immunity