Pursuing a lawsuit is a significant undertaking for anyone looking to get compensation for a personal injury. Maybe you’ve heard the term “statute of limitations” thrown around in reference to personal injury law and are wondering about its relevance to your case or a loved one’s case. Knowing how Illinois statute of limitations personal injury law works and having an attorney that understands the issue can determine whether you get compensation for your injury. No matter what type of personal injury lawsuit you will be filing, they all have a statute of limitations, and filing your lawsuit during that window of time is crucial.
The Basics: What Are Statutes of Limitations?
The statute of limitations refers to the time limit during which you can legally file a lawsuit. States have deadlines that pertain to different types of lawsuits in civil court. Illinois law has a specific time period for when you can file a personal injury lawsuit. The purpose of this law is to ensure that the evidence is still relevant and to prevent lawsuits from carrying on for an indefinite amount of time.
So, how long after an injury can you file a personal injury lawsuit? The standard time limit in Illinois is two years, according to section 5/13-202 in (735 ILCS 5/) Code of Civil Procedure, which states:
“Actions for damages for an injury to the person… shall be commenced within 2 years next after the cause of action accrued”
This means that the clock starts on the two-year time limit when the date of injury, also known as the cause of action, occurs. Note that the statute applies to filing a lawsuit in civil court, and does not necessarily apply to filing an accident claim and seeking a settlement with the other party’s insurance company. While the time period for filing your claim with an insurance company may be similar, this is not always the case. In fact, most insurance carriers advise that you file an accident claim as soon as reasonably possible.
What exactly falls under the umbrella of cases that apply to this two-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits? Examples of different types of personal injury cases include:
- Car Accident
- Medical Malpractice
- Product Defects / Product Liability
- Tripping Accidents (Slip and Falls)
- Nursing Home Negligence
- Assault Injuries
- Wrongful Death
What if You Miss the Two-Year Time Limit?
Unfortunately, you don’t have much of a case if you file after the statute has passed. Typically the defendant will ask the court to dismiss your lawsuit, citing the expired statute of limitations. The court will grant the motion and effectively end your case. For this reason, it’s essential to know what your timeline looks like and then determine if you’d like to pursue a personal injury lawsuit before you risk missing the deadline. Everyone’s healing process varies and different people require varying lengths of time to prepare for the stress of a lawsuit after a traumatic injury. But if you believe you deserve compensation for the experience you went through, for medical bills, or lost wages, making a move within the time limit is the only way to get compensation.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Fortunately, certain exceptions do exist because some of the reasons why you may miss the two-year period of time have already been accounted for by the legal system. In some cases, the clock can be “paused” on the two-year time limit if:
- The plaintiff was a minor at the time of injury, in which case they have two years to file after turning 18-years-old. If the plaintiff was a victim of medical malpractice as a minor they have eight years to file, but can’t file after the date of their 22nd birthday.
- The plaintiff had a legal disability, either at the time of the accident or after the date of the accident, that prevented them from filing a lawsuit. The injured person would then have two years to file a claim after they recover from the disability.
What is the Discovery Rule?
The Discovery Rule is another exception to Illinois statute of limitations personal injury law and it applies to cases where the plaintiff was not aware of her injury or that it was wrongfully caused. In this case, the clock on the two-year time limit starts on the date they discovered the injury. One example of the application of the discovery rule was a 2011 product liability case in which a plaintiff eventually learned that a product implanted in her during a shoulder surgery significantly contributed to her injury. The product liability lawsuit wasn’t filed until eight years after the injury. The plaintiff was already pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit for the same injury when it was discovered that she also had a case for a product liability lawsuit. After a legal battle, the Illinois Appellate court ruled that,
“Where a plaintiff knows or should reasonably know that her injury was caused by one source, but remains unaware of another source that could not be discovered through the exercise of diligent inquiry, the statute of limitations does not begin to run with regard to that second source until such time as that second source would become discoverable through diligent inquiry.”
In other words, the court determined that if the cause of action did not come to light through an initial diligent inquiry, but is discovered at a later date, there can be an exception to the statute of limitations. Illinois law does put a cap on the extension in the case of medical malpractice, stating that you cannot file more than four years after the injury occurred.
It’s important to keep in mind that although these exceptions do exist, we don’t advise depending on them applying to your case without speaking to an attorney. Always make sure to consult a personal injury attorney as early as possible for legal advice to be sure that you’re making the right decisions for yourself.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have additional questions about Illinois statute of limitations personal injury law or are considering consulting a lawyer in the Chicago area, please contact Palermo Law Group at (630)684-2332 for a free consultation with nationally recognized personal injury lawyer, Mario Palermo, regarding the best approach to obtaining compensation for your injuries.