Township May Pay High Price for Liability Insurance Shortfall

By Tatum, Christine | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 30, 1997 | Go to article overview

Township May Pay High Price for Liability Insurance Shortfall


Tatum, Christine, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Christine Tatum Daily Herald Staff Writer

Schaumburg Township has been socked with a lawsuit that could cost it millions of dollars.

With the benefit of hindsight, trustees say they want to increase the township's $2 million liability insurance coverage.

But that won't help the township pay a $9 million offer made by an attorney representing Maria Reyes, who was hit by a township bus three years ago. The 32-year-old Hoffman Estates woman suffered brain damage that has left her unable to care for herself and with more than $400,000 in medical bills.

Reyes, who was jogging across Huntington Boulevard at Higgins Road, fell under the wheels of the bus, a shuttle for the township's senior citizens. Still at issue is whether Reyes ran into the bus or the bus ran into her.

Should it choose to pay the settlement, the township could have to pay $7 million out of its own coffers.

Trustees aren't sure where that money would come from. They've delayed approving the township's budget until next month partly because they're trying to figure out how to pay rising legal fees and increase their current liability coverage.

"I can't help it if the township is underinsured," said Reyes' attorney, Robert Clifford of Chicago. "Who would have guessed they would run transportation services with so little insurance in the first place?"

Attorneys made similar arguments last year against the village of Hanover Park, which lost a $7.2-million judgment stemming from a 1988 motorcycle accident. The judgment exceeded the village's insurance coverage by about $6.2 million.

Hanover Park increased taxes to cover the cost. The average homeowner will pay about $289 over the next 15 years to help pay the debt. And if they move from the village, average homeowners would pay a newly established real estate transfer tax of about $375.

"I sympathize with Schaumburg Township - especially because I live there," said former Hanover Park Village President Sonya Crawshaw. "Unfortunately, it seems the deep pockets of local government always get taken to the cleaners.

"You can't blame the township for making a decision with the information it had at the time," she added. "Speaking from experience, you just have to face these things head on and do the best you can. …

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