How long do I have to file a suit?
For civil claims, a plaintiff has a limited period in which to file a lawsuit for his or her claim. This period, and the laws that govern it, is known as the statute of limitations. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that the threat of a lawsuit does not hang indefinitely over a potentially liable party, so that party can move on with their life or business confident in the knowledge that no legal claim is forthcoming.
In Illinois, the length of the statute of limitations differs depending on the type of claim involved. Common statutes of limitations for claims that our firm handles include:
- Personal injury: Two years
- Property damage: Five years
- Medical malpractice: Two to four years
- Workers’ compensation: Two to three years
- Wrongful death: The later of the limitations period of the underlying type of case, or one year from the date of death
Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run from the time that an injury or damage is suffered. However, legally the limitations period does not begin until a plaintiff’s claim has accrued. This means that the running of the statute of limitations can be delayed in certain circumstances. One of the most common circumstances is called the discovery rule, which states that a claim does not accrue until a plaintiff knows, or should know through reasonable investigation, of the facts and circumstances giving rise to his or her claim.
Also, the statute of limitations may be paused, or “tolled”, under certain circumstances. For example, Illinois law allows a plaintiff who is a minor at the time his or her legal claim accrues to file their lawsuit within 2 years of their 18th birthday (unless the normal statute of limitations gives them a longer period of time to file their lawsuit). There are a few exceptions to the rule for minors. One exception is for medical malpractice claims; a minor plaintiff must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within 8 years of the offending treatment or before the plaintiff turns 22. In addition, Illinois has eliminated the statute of limitations for claims arising from sexual abuse that occurred when the victim was a minor.
In addition to the minor plaintiff rule, courts may toll the statute of limitations under other circumstances, such as if the plaintiff is mentally incompetent at the time of injury, if the defendant is unavailable to be subject to process, or if the defendant actively conceals facts and circumstances establishing his or her identity or liability.
Finally, if a plaintiff has a claim against the government or a public agency, there are notice requirements under the law in addition to the statute of limitations. For claims against the state or a state agency or employee, a plaintiff must provide notice of the claim to the Illinois Attorney General and the Clerk of the Court of Claims within one year of the date of injury. Any lawsuit must be filed within two years of the accident; notice is not necessary if the lawsuit is filed within one year of the accident. Claims against a municipality must be filed within one year, except that medical malpractice claims can be filed within two years.
If you were hurt in an accident caused by negligence, don’t wait until it is too late to take action. Call our the team at Spiros Law, P.C. at (217) 328-2828 to speak with a committed and knowledgeable lawyer today.