In this article we explain the Illinois Family Expense statute and answer the question, “when is a family member liable for debts of spouses and children?” We answer the questions, “are family members liable for spouses’ and children’s medical expenses?”, “can a child recover a parent’s medical expenses as damages in Illinois?”, “when can a parent recover a child’s medical expenses as damages in Illinois?” and “what qualifies as a family expense for which spouses and children are liable?”
The Illinois Family Expense Statute (750 ILCS 65/15, 1994) makes a spouse liable for expenses of the family. “Family” is limited to a spouse and children, so individuals are not legally obligated to pay for their parents’ or their spouse’s parents’ unpaid expenses. These expenses include medical, hospital, and funeral expenses incurred by both minors and other family members under a legal disability. Through the Illinois Family Expense Act, children are not liable for their parent’s medical expenses (unless they promised to pay the debt as a co-signer). For more information regarding the personal liability of a deceased parent’s debt, see Illinois Probate Estates: Paying off a Deceased Parent’s Debt.
Consequently, in a child’s suit for personal injury, he or she cannot pursue reimbursement for the medical expenses incurred by the parent in an effort to be cured of those injuries. If a parent assigns the right to recover these expenses to a child, the child’s claim for reimbursement of the medical expenses is subject to the same defenses that could have been raised against the parent.
When an accident results and a minor incurs injuries, the statute of limitations gives a parent two years after the minor plaintiff reaches age 18 (or two years after the point at which the plaintiff’s legal disability is removed) to file suit for reimbursement of medical expenses.
Once a child has reached the age of majority (age 18), his or her parents are no longer legally responsible for his or her medical bills. Therefore, an Illinois parent does not have a cause of action under the Family Expense Statute for medical expenses incurred by a child over the age of 18, even if that child is not emancipated (under parental control). While the right to recover medical expenses is held by the parents, it is still dependent on the personal injury cause of action of the child or person under a disability.
The state of Illinois has debated what may be considered a family expense, but the following costs have been confirmed:
· Medical bills
· Funeral expenses
· Rent for the family home
· Repairs for the family home
· Wages for a domestic servant
Money loans are not considered to be a family expense, as the debt has to be for purchasing specific goods and services. For example, if a spouse takes out a personal loan, the other spouse is not liable for it, even if the spouse used the loaned money to purchase goods or services for the family. If a spouse takes out a loan of $100,000 to pay medical bills, the other spouse is not liable for the loan if the borrowing spouse defaults. However, if either spouse fails to pay the medical bills period, the other spouse may be liable.