Personal Injury

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

By David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law
The Illinois personal injury statute of limitations sets a strict deadline on your right to file a lawsuit after an accident. Miss it and you lose your right to compensation.

If you are thinking about making a personal injury claim after an accident in Illinois, you need to understand the statute of limitations, and how it applies to your potential case.

A “statute of limitations” is simply a law that sets a time limit on your right to file a lawsuit. Every state has these kinds of laws on the books, and there are usually different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.

Now, onto the specifics of the law in Illinois, where 735 Illinois Compiled Statutes section 5/13-202 says, "Actions for damages for an injury to the person...shall be commenced within two years next after the cause of action accrued" (emphasis added.)

In plain English, this means if you were hurt in a car accident, in a slip and fall, or in almost any other situation where someone else's carelessness played a part in causing you injuries, you have two years to get your lawsuit filed, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the underlying incident. (Learn more about Common Types of Personal Injury Claims.)

If you don't get your Illinois personal injury lawsuit started before the two-year time period passes, it is a near-certainty that the person you are trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss your lawsuit, and the court will almost surely grant the request, leaving you without a legal remedy for your injuries and other losses stemming from the accident.

Exceptions to the Illinois Statute of Limitations

There are some rare situations where the running of the statute of limitations “clock” can be paused or “tolled” in Illinois -- in other words, the filing deadline is extended beyond the statutory two years. For example, 735 Illinois Compiled Statutes section 5/13-211 says “If the person entitled to bring an action..., at the time the cause of action accrued, is under the age of 18 years or is under a legal disability, then he or she may bring the action within 2 years after the person attains the age of 18 years, or the disability is removed.”

This is only one example of when the statute of limitations deadline may be tolled in Illinois. If you have specific questions about extending the filing deadline in Illinois, an experienced personal injury attorney will have the answers.

Even if you doubt that you're going to file a personal injury lawsuit over your accident -- maybe you're already in serious settlement talks with the at-fault party's insurance company -- it's still important to keep the statute of limitations deadline in mind. If you don't get the claim process started right away, or if the other side is dragging its heels, two years can pass by pretty quickly. You always want to make sure you have the option of taking your case to court. Lose that option, and you lose all your leverage during injury settlement negotiations. (Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling an Injury Claim.)

If you need more details on the Illinois personal injury statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential case -- and especially if the filing deadline is quickly approaching -- contact an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney to make sure your legal options are preserved.

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