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What Is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Illinois?

Under Illinois state law, victims have a limited time to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages. It’s important to identify the statute of limitations that might apply to your specific personal injury case in Illinois. Once the statute of limitation expires, the right to file a claim and demand compensation is lost.

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If you’ve been hurt in an accident in Illinois because someone else was negligent, you may be entitled to compensation. However, you won’t have an unlimited amount of time to file an insurance claim or lawsuit.

Illinois puts a clock—known as the statute of limitations—on personal injury cases. Once the statute of limitations expires, you forfeit the opportunity to file a claim, assert your rights, and demand the compensation you need and deserve.

How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Illinois?

While the specific circumstances of your case might warrant a different deadline, the standard statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Illinois is two years.

Under Illinois statute, the clock begins to run on the date the injury is sustained. Generally speaking, the second anniversary of your accident will serve as the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages.

The two-year deadline applies to personal injury cases involving:

Illinois has specific statutes that apply to cases involving medical malpractice, government tort claims, and claims for workers’ compensation benefits.

Medical Malpractice

Illinois also has a two-year statute of limitations that applies to medical malpractice lawsuits. However, the rules for when the clock begins to run are different.

In medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations begins to run the earlier of when you:

  • Knew you were injured
  • Should have known you were injured
  • Received written notice of the injury

Some injuries related to medical negligence are not discovered right away, giving patients additional time to pursue compensation.

Government Tort Claims

The government traditionally follows sovereign immunity, which protects it from liability in certain types of personal injury lawsuits. There are, however, exceptions under the Illinois Court of Claims Act and Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act.

If government negligence is a contributing factor to your accident or injury, you can reserve the right to file a claim for damages against the government or local municipality.

Under the Illinois Court of Claims Act, you have:

  • One year from the date of your injury to file notice with the Attorney General and Court of Claims, or
  • One year from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit with the Court of Claims.

If you’ve provided notice of your claim, you will have up to two years to file a lawsuit.

Under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, you’ll have:

  • One year to file a claim based on willful and wanton misconduct, or
  • Two years to file a claim based on medical negligence.

It’s important to provide notice of your claim promptly to preserve your right to compensation.

Workers’ Compensation

While a workers’ compensation claim for benefits isn’t technically a lawsuit, it is an avenue for injured workers in Illinois to recover money for work-related injuries and illnesses.

Under Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act, the statute of limitations is:

  • Three years from the date of your injury, or
  • Two years from the date you last received benefits.

It’s generally in your best interest to initiate the claims process immediately so that your right to compensation is preserved.

Margaret P. Battersby Black working at desk

Are there any exceptions to the statute of limitations in Illinois personal injury cases?

There are times when it might not be fair to apply a two-year deadline to a personal injury case. In these situations, Illinois law provides that the statute of limitations can be “tolled.”

Tolling means that the statute of limitations is paused or put on hold until a problem or issue is resolved.

For instance, the statute of limitations might be tolled if:

  • The defendant can’t be located or leaves the state of Illinois
  • The plaintiff suffers from a disability that prevents them from bringing a claim
  • The victim is a child at the time of their accident

The statute of limitations can also be tolled under the discovery rule. In these situations, the clock on the deadline won’t begin to run until a victim knows or should have known that an injury occurred as a result of negligence (through reasonable diligence. When the discovery date occurs, the statute of limitations period begins to run.

In Illinois, injured children generally have until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit as long as a parent or guardian hasn’t already initiated a claim on their behalf.

In Illinois, when a disabled person suffers an injury, the statute of limitations period is tolled until the date the injured person’s disability is removed.

Does Illinois have a statute of repose?

Yes. A statute of repose is similar to a statute of limitations, except that it is directly related to the date of your accident. It sets a firm boundary for when you can initiate a lawsuit, even if the statute of limitations on your case hasn’t run yet.

Under 735 ILCS 5/13-212, the statute of repose is four years from the date an injury is suffered. This applies to both general personal injury matters and medical negligence claims.

Illinois has a longer statute of repose for product liability cases. Under 735 ILCS 5/13-213(b), product liability lawsuits must be filed within 12 years of the date a product is first sold.

Michael F. Bonamarte, IV working at desk

Why does Illinois have a statute of limitations on civil personal injury cases?

Ultimately, Illinois sets an expiration on personal injury cases to encourage the timely pursuit of justice.

Initiating the legal process for damages shortly after an accident has several benefits:

  • Relevant evidence is less likely to be lost, damaged, or destroyed.
  • Witness memories tend to be stronger and more accurate.
  • Victims are able to secure the compensation that is necessary to cover costly medical bills, make up for lost wages, and take care of other injury-related financial stressors.
  • Defendants are not blindsided by a lawsuit several years after an incident occurs.

Keep in mind that you simply have to get the personal injury claims process started by your filing deadline. The process itself can take time and be extended, as necessary, to suit the specific circumstances of your case.

Set yourself up for success by enlisting the help of an experienced Illinois personal injury lawyer immediately after an accident or discovering an injury.

At Levin & Perconti, we’re award-winning Illinois trial attorneys who have gained national recognition for our record-setting results for clients like you. Call our Chicago law office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your personal injury case today. We’re always standing by to provide the assistance you need, 24/7/365.