Free Consultation · Call 24/7

What Is the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Illinois?

The state of Illinois limits the amount of time you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, but the time limit can vary based on the specific facts of your case. An experienced Illinois medical malpractice attorney can determine how the statute of limitations applies to your claim.

Quick Links

If you have been injured as a result of negligent acts or omissions by a health care provider, it is important to contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as you become aware of the injury. The statute of limitations imposes limits on how long you have to file after such an injury occurs.

Below are answers to our most frequently asked questions about the Illinois medical malpractice statute of limitations.

What is the medical malpractice statute of limitations in Illinois?

In general, the statute of limitations on Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits is two years from the date of injury. If you discover your injury later on, then you may have no longer than four years to file a lawsuit. However, specific case facts can create variances in the statute of limitations, so it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

What is the discovery rule?

Some injuries are not discovered until a period of time, sometimes years, after a medical procedure is completed. For example, a foreign object left behind during surgery may not be detected until after it causes harm and is discovered during an imaging test or subsequent surgery.

The discovery rule allows the clock on the statute of limitations to start ticking on the date the object is discovered rather than on the date it was left behind. If the injury is discovered one year after the surgery, you may have until two years after that date to file your claim, which amounts to three years from the date of surgery.

The date of discovery is the date you knew or should have known about the injury. A defendant may refute the discovery date by claiming you should have discovered it on an earlier date. The date on which you should have known about the injury is either of the following:

  • The date a reasonably diligent person would have discovered the injury
  • The date on which you received notification in writing that the injury occurred

For the benefit of your health and to prevent a defendant from prevailing in such a dispute, we advise promptly following up with your health care provider about any unusual symptoms following a medical procedure.

What is a statute of repose?

A statute of repose is an absolute deadline that requires the statute of limitations to begin accruing on the date the medical negligence occurred, regardless of when it is discovered. If a medical act or omission is discovered after the statute of repose has expired, it is too late to bring a cause of action except in special circumstances.

The state of Illinois imposes a four-year statute of repose on most medical malpractice claims.

Does the statute of limitations differ if the patient was a minor at the time of injury?

Since unemancipated minors lack the capacity to file a legal action, state law extends the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases to allow minors to file a legal action for up to eight years after the injury occurred, or until the minor turns 22. Birth injuries typically fall under the same rule as medical malpractice claims.

Michael F. Bonamarte, IV working at desk

What if I cannot file a claim because of a disability?

If you experience a disability that prevents you from filing a claim, the statute of limitation may be tolled, or paused, until the disability ends. You may then have two years to file your claim. If the disability occurs after the clock has already started to run, the law allows the clock to be paused until your disability ends.

What if I did not learn about the medical malpractice because the health care provider actively concealed it?

State law refers to this as fraudulent concealment. If your attorney can prove fraudulent concealment prevented you from reasonably discovering the injury, the statute of limitations may be extended to five years from the date of discovery.

Are there any other exceptions to the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations may be tolled in the following circumstances:

  • The court issues a stay.
  • Your case is reversed or dismissed in court and certain conditions are met.
  • The defendant is absent from the state.

What should I do if I am uncertain whether one of the exceptions applies to me?

The laws are complex, and without a thorough understanding of all the nuances of the law, you may err in assuming an exception applies. It is important to contact an attorney to help investigate your specific circumstance.

How does death impact the statute of limitations?

If the plaintiff passes away prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, the representative may file an action before the statute of limitations would have expired or within one year of the date of death, typically whichever is later.

If the defendant passes away, an action may be brought against the decedent’s personal representative for up to six months after the date of death.

Margaret P. Battersby Black working at desk

When should I contact a medical malpractice lawyer?

Contact an attorney as soon as you become aware of your injury. It’s important to act quickly to preserve evidence and avoid time limitations. The sooner you contact an experienced Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at Levin & Perconti, the more time we will have to prepare a strong case before the statute of limitations expires. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.