Chicago Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury

  • The statute of limitations for most Chicago personal injury cases is generally two years.
  • For specific types of claims, the statute of limitations may be shorter or longer.
  • In some cases, such as those involving minors, the statute of limitations doesn’t start running immediately.
  • Discovering your harm after the statute of limitations expires may create more time to file a claim, but a final deadline is usually still attached.
  • You generally have less time to file claims against government entities.

The statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit. The Chicago statute of limitations for most personal injury lawsuits is two years from your accident date. Specific claims, such as medical malpractice, have different deadlines. In addition, how long you have to file may depend on when you discovered your injuries as opposed to the accident date.

Determining the applicable statute of limitations can be complex but critical to your case. If you don’t timely file suit, a judge will likely dismiss your claim. Your best strategy is to hire an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your circumstances and timely file your paperwork so you don’t miss your chance for compensation.

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Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Chicago

In civil law, the statute of limitations dictates when you must file personal injury claims. Unless your claim meets the criteria for a legal exception, you cannot recover compensation if you file after the statute of limitations expires. 

For instance, in Giles v. Parks, an Illinois appeals court upheld a trial court’s dismissal of a lawsuit that a decedent’s brother brought one day after the applicable statute of limitations had expired. The brother claimed several exceptions, each of which the court denied. The court’s opinion acknowledged that applying the statute of limitations may seem harsh or undesirable, but doing so is the law.

Timeline for Filing Personal Injury Lawsuits in Chicago

The timeline for filing your personal injury lawsuit depends on the legal basis for your claim. The statutes of limitations for Chicago personal injury cases include the following:

  • General personal injury claims: Most personal injury claims have a two-year statute of limitations. The limitations period begins to run on the accident date.
  • Medical malpractice cases: You have two years from the date you knew, should have known, or received notice of your injuries to file a claim, but no longer than four years from the action that caused your harm.
  • Product liability claims: You have two years to file a product liability claim unless you were unaware of your injuries. However,  the latest you can file your claim is 12 years from when the manufacturer sold the product to an initial seller or 10 years from when the seller sold it to an initial consumer, whichever is earlier.
  • Wrongful death lawsuits: You have two years to file a wrongful death claim. The time begins on the date of the decedent’s death, not the date on which the action that caused the death occurred.
  • Sexual abuse: The statute of limitations for adult sexual abuse is generally two years from the incident date. For childhood sexual abuse, victims have 20 years from their 18th birthday if they had a cause of action before Jan. 1, 2014. For childhood sexual abuse claims after Jan. 1, 2014, there is no statute of limitations.
  • Dram shop liability: You have one year following the date of your accident to file a claim against an establishment for overserving alcohol to someone who harmed you.
  • Mesothelioma claims: In Illinois, you have two years from the date you discovered your injuries to file a mesothelioma injury or death claim. However, if you have to file in another state, this affects the mesothelioma statute of limitations.
  • Construction accidents: You generally have four years to file a claim for certain construction accident injuries. If you were unaware of your damages, the latest you can file a claim is 10 years after the accident.

Importance of the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Claims

Regardless of the strength of your case against the other party and the extent of your injuries, a judge will likely dismiss your claim if you miss the statute of limitations. An insurance company will unlikely offer you a settlement once the statute of limitations has passed because it knows you probably will be unable to sue it in court.

Strict compliance with statutes of limitations seems harsh when you are a plaintiff. However, time limitations provide fairness when you are a defendant. Limiting how long someone can bring a lawsuit allows defendants to collect evidence and interview witnesses while they are still available.

Factors Influencing the Statute of Limitations Timeline

Judges may grant you more time to file your lawsuit in limited instances. Several factors influence the statute of limitations timeline, including:

  • The discovery rule: Some statutes of limitations don’t start running until you knew or should have known of your injuries.
  • Statute of repose: A statute of repose sets a hard deadline to file a claim based on the injury date, even if you didn’t know you suffered harm.
  • Minors and legal disability: The statute of limitations does not start running for minors until their 18th birthday. For those judged as legally disabled, the period does not begin until the disability status is removed.
  • Absence from the state: If a defendant flees the state, the time they are gone does not count against the statute of limitations.
  • Death of a party: A plaintiff’s representative can file a lawsuit on behalf of a decades party within the applicable statute of limitations or within one year of the party’s death, whichever is later. If the defendant dies, six months are added to the applicable statute of limitations for the plaintiff to sue the defendant’s estate.
  • Suing the government: You must file a claim against a local entity in Illinois within one year for injury or death. For medical malpractice claims, you have two years if you discovered your harm, but no later than four years. You have one year to file a notice of claim or a lawsuit against the state. If you file a notice of claim, you have two years from the incident date to file suit.
  • Fraudulent concealment: If the defendant hides their actions through fraud, the plaintiff has five years from when they discovered their harm to file a claim.

What To Do if the statute of limitations Is Nearing Expiration

If you are approaching the statute of limitations for your personal injury claim, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. They can evaluate your case details and explore any possible exceptions or extensions to the statute of limitations that may apply.

FAQs: Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Chicago

It is common to have questions regarding the statute of limitations and how it may affect your case. These are some of the more frequent ones we hear from our clients.

Can the Statute of Limitations Be Extended?

The statute of limitations may be extended if you did not discover or could not reasonably have discovered your injuries until long after the incident that caused them. It also may be extended if the defendant has left the state or died.

What Happens if I File a Lawsuit After the Statute of Limitations Has Expired?

If you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired by even one day, a judge will likely dismiss it. The other party’s insurance company may also halt negotiations because it knows you can no longer sue.

Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?

There are exceptions to the statute of limitations for minors and those with incapacitating disabilities. Also, the deadline may be extended if the defendant flees the state. There also are cases in which you have longer to file because you didn’t discover your injuries, such as in some medical malpractice claims.

What Is the Discovery Rule, and How Can It Affect My Case?

Instead of the statute of limitations starting on your accident date, the discovery rule dictates that it starts running when you have discovered, reasonably should have discovered, or are notified of your injuries. For example, you may not immediately know that medical negligence harmed you.

Recap of the Chicago Statute of Limitations

The Chicago statute of limitations varies by the type of claim, but it is two years for most cases, including some common ones our skilled attorneys handle, such as:

Seek legal advice promptly if you are hurt by someone else and want to pursue damages. A skilled attorney will investigate your case, handle insurance companies, file your claim on time, and go to court to fight for compensation if necessary.

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