Illinois Statute of Limitations

Friday, February 16, 2024

Illinois Statute of Limitations

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

The statute of limitations is a law that places a specific time limit on pursuing a legal remedy in response to wrongful conduct. Unless a legal exception applies, after the expiration of the statutory period, the injured party loses their right to file a lawsuit seeking monetary damages or other relief.

Indeed, like all other lawsuits, Illinois personal injury cases have a time limit set by a statute of limitations. In most personal injury cases, the time period covered by the statute of limitations begins on the date of the injury’s occurrence. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Illinois is usually two years from the accident date. However, remember that the time limit is for filing a lawsuit. You can file a car insurance accident claim at any time, but it is usually required to file a claim with your insurance company within a reasonable time or promptly.

 Understanding The Statute of Limitations in Illinois

While the statute of limitations seems simple, it is not always as straightforward as it seems. Here’s why:

  • If you discover a medical injury outside the statute of limitations, the discovery rule may apply and extend the period that you can collect damages.
  • On the other hand, tolling the statute of limitations benefits the victim by stopping (tolling) the time period allowed.
  • The time period covered by the statute of limitations differs for each state and every singular offense.
  • Even so, the statute of limitations for negligence/personal injury in Illinois is two years with the Modified Discovery Rule, which states that parties knew or should have known the injury was wrongfully caused even if the plaintiff did not know it was actionable.
  • For example, if you were struck and injured in a vehicle accident on June 14, 2021, you typically have until June 14, 2023, to file a personal injury suit and work to recover damages against those responsible for the injury. However, as in many areas of the law, many exceptions may apply.

The Statute Of Limitations And Wrongful Death

If there was a fatal accident involving your loved one, family members have two years from the date of injury to file a wrongful death action. If the injured person passed away from their injuries after the accident, you have two years from the date of their death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Statute Of Limitations For Medical Malpractice

There is another statute of limitations in place in Illinois for medical malpractice. It also is two years, and the clock starts when you knew or should have known about your injuries. The time limit also applies to two years from the date you were given written notice of the injury.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in Illinois

While the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Illinois is two years, there are certain cases where you might get more time. If you were unaware of your personal injury until some time after the accident, you have two years from the date of discovery to file suit.

The following circumstances also will extend the two-year statute of limitations in Illinois:

  • If the accident victim is under 18, the two-year statute of limitations clock starts on their 18th birthday.
  • If the accident victim is legally disabled (declared mentally incompetent), the clock begins when a doctor states that the mental health issue has been resolved.
  • If the accident victim becomes disabled within two years, the clock pauses until they are declared mentally competent.
  • If the defendant leaves the state during the two years, the clock pauses when they leave and starts when they return.

These unusual cases can give you more time to file a personal injury lawsuit in Illinois. However, you should rely on them. For instance, the judge could deny your request to delay the statute of limitations if you cannot prove the disability or the person left the state. Giving your personal injury attorney sufficient time to file a lawsuit is usually best.

What Is the Discovery Rule?

In some instances, an injury is not discovered immediately but until after a while or years after a medical procedure. For example, a patient started experiencing sharp pain in the abdomen months after surgery to fix internal bleeding related to a car accident.

The discovery rule allows the time to start counting when the cause of the pain was discovered instead of the date the medical malpractice occurred. If the object was found one year after the surgery, then the statute of limitations allows two years to file a lawsuit, three years after the surgery.

Here’s how the discovery rule applies to a medical malpractice injury:

  • An injured victim has two years after discovering the injury or the time they should have known the injury. Even so, a personal injury victim should commence legal action up to four years after the injury.
  • A minor has eight years from the date of the harmful act; however, no event should be brought from the person’s 22nd birthday.
  • If you have a disability other than age, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the disability has ceased.

The at-fault party can request to dismiss the motion by claiming you should have discovered the injury earlier.

Usually, the date you should have known about the injury is either the following:

  • The date on which a diligent person should have discovered the injury
  • The date that you received a written notification from a healthcare provider about the occurrence of the injury

What Is the Statute of Repose?

The statute of repose is similar to the statute of limitations but directly related to the date of the accident. It sets an absolute deadline for a personal injury victim to initiate a lawsuit, even if the statute of limitations of your case hasn’t run yet.

Under rule 735 ILCS 5/13-212, the statute of repose is four years from the date a victim sustained an injury. The law of repose applies to personal injury and medical negligence claims.

Rule 735 ILCS 5/13-213(b) provides a longer statute of repose for product liability cases, requiring injured victims to file a lawsuit within 12 years after the product’s first sale.

Suppose a medical negligence injury was discovered after the statute of repose has expired. In that case, it may be too late to bring an action against the at-fault party, except under exceptional circumstances.

Illinois Statute Of Limitations For Injuries On Government Property

Another exception to the Illinois statute of limitations is if the accident happened on government property. For example, suppose you fell down the steps at the county courthouse because there was ice and snow present. You must file a personal injury claim within a year of the incident. If you cannot resolve the issue and you want to file a lawsuit, you have two years from the date of the injury.

Why Filing A Claim On Time Is Important

Missing the deadline on the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in Illinois can be disastrous. If you wait over two years to file a claim for your injuries, you may be barred from compensation. All the defendant would need to do is file a motion to dismiss your case, and the judge will grant it.

Other Personal Injury Laws In Illinois

Illinois Is A Fault State?

Some states have a ‘no-fault’ rule for auto accidents. But Illinois is not among them. This means if the other driver caused your accident, they are liable for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. It might be easier to file the claim with your insurance company even if the other driver was at fault. Then, your insurance company will eventually seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Comparative Negligence In Illinois

If the other driver was completely responsible for the accident, you can probably receive compensation for your injuries if the claim is filed within two years of the injury. When fault is uncontested, the claim process is relatively straightforward: The other driver’s insurance company may reimburse you for your medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

However, what happens if you were partly at fault for the accident? Illinois has a comparative fault rule. This means if you were partially at fault, your financial recovery will be reduced by your percentage of responsibility for the accident. Suppose you have $10,000 in medical bills and lost wages after a car accident. But the insurance company states you were 25% at fault. So, your compensation will be reduced by $2,500.

However, you can still file a personal injury lawsuit in the case if you disagree with the insurance adjuster’s decision. Your attorney will discuss whether you should settle your claim or go to court.

Auto Insurance Requirements In Illinois

All Illinois drivers must have a minimum amount of auto insurance to drive on public roads. The requirements are:

  • $25,000 for the death or injury of a single person per incident.
  • $50,000 for all injuries or deaths that happen in an accident.
  • $20,000 for property damage that happens per accident.

If the other driver does not have auto insurance, you can file a claim on your own insurance if you have uninsured or underinsured driver coverage. It is always beneficial to carry sufficient uninsured and underinsured driver protection on your Illinois auto insurance policy. One never knows if the person who caused the accident has auto insurance.

Accident Reporting Requirements In Illinois

The Illinois State Police says that any driver in a car accident in the state must file an accident report if the incident caused injury, death, or more than $1,500 in vehicle damages. If the police do not come to the scene, you must file a report with the Illinois State Police within ten days. If law enforcement does come to the accident scene, they will complete the report as part of the investigation.

How An Illinois Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help

You may be entitled to compensation if you sustained an injury due to someone’s fault. You may face an extended recovery time, wage loss, mounting medical bills, and pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, the statute of limitation and statute of repose allow injured victims to take legal action within a limited window. When the legally allowed window elapses, your ability to obtain compensation becomes limited.

Therefore, you need an attorney’s help to adhere to the legal deadlines and protect your rights.

Here’s how an attorney can help:

Provide Legal Advice

Taking the right action or making a suitable decision can significantly enhance your chances of success. For instance, an attorney will advise you to wait until you obtain maximum medical improvement before filing an insurance claim or lawsuit.

If you closely monitor your injury, you’ll likely discover a complication and take action in time before the expiry of legal deadlines.

More importantly, an experienced attorney will handle the claim objectively as opposed to a victim who may be held back by the pain and emotional anguish of the injury.

Expedite Your Claim

Most personal injury victims obtain compensation from insurers of the at-fault party. Therefore, an injured victim may want to pursue an insurance claim before filing a lawsuit. A personal injury attorney can speed up the claim by providing evidence and communicating with the insurance provider on your behalf.

Prevent Mistakes

An insurance company may contact an injured victim immediately after sustaining an injury. If you speak to an insurance adjuster without legal aid, you could lose the opportunity to obtain fair compensation for your injuries.

You, therefore, need to contact an Illinois medical malpractice attorney who will help protect your rights and injury claim. More importantly, an attorney will inform you whether you’re at risk of missing any legal deadlines.


There are nuances and clauses to the statute of limitations, so injured parties should seek the assistance of an experienced Chicago Personal Injury Attorney. Personal injury lawyers are battle tested and knowledgeable in the statute of limitations applied to various personal injury suits. It is critical to contact them as close to the date of the injury or offense as possible to ensure that you can begin legal proceedings and adhere to timeline requirements and receive just compensation.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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