Injury settlements are generally classified as marital property when people divorce in Illinois, but there are exceptions. Although judges consistently rule that awards for injuries acquired during the marriage should be equitably divided, property interest begins on the date of the accident, not when the settlement check is received. Settlements may be determined to be non-marital property when people were hurt before they became married.
How Marital Property Is Defined in Illinois
Marital property is property and assets acquired during the marriage, and it must be divided equitably during divorce. Certain types of property are considered non-marital.
- Assets obtained before the marriage
- Items received as a gift or inheritance to one party alone
- Items excluded from marital property by mutual agreement
- Legal judgments awarded to one spouse
- Property acquired after legal separation
Based on this definition, it would appear that personal injury settlements would be non-marital property. However, Illinois law excludes personal injury settlements, workers’ compensation benefits, and disability benefits from the non-marital property definition. Personal injury settlements are generally marital property and need to be divided.
How Personal Injury Settlements Are Divided
Since Illinois is an equitable distribution state, personal injury settlements are divided fairly, not evenly. Therefore, courts consider factors like employability, health, and future medical costs when dividing injury settlements in an Illinois divorce. If the injuries caused the victim to be disabled and unable to work, a larger portion of the award will typically be distributed to that individual.
If the disabled individual feels the court’s ruling is unfair or will create a dangerous financial position, he or she can appeal the decision. Divorce lawyers can help injured or disabled individuals determine if they have good cause to appeal, and a higher court can overturn the original court’s decision.
Divorce and Future Settlements
Personal injury claims and workers’ compensation claims can take years to settle. If the divorce happens before the settlement money comes, the settlement is still subject to division as long as the injury occurred during the marriage. If the person was injured before the marriage, however, the settlement is usually considered non-marital property and not subject to division even if payment was received during the marriage.