After a car accident, injured victims only have so much time to file a lawsuit or insurance claim. If they allow this time limit to expire, they might lose their ability to file a claim.
After a car accident in Illinois, you typically have 2 years to file a lawsuit. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations, and if it expires, you might lose your ability to sue for the accident. However, there are situations where plaintiffs can toll the statute and buy themselves more time. Being unable to file the claim because of a disability or your mental health might allow you to toll the statute. While some people might hesitate to file because they are uneasy about a lawsuit, they must be careful not to wait too long. Waiting can have a few benefits, but it also comes with significant consequences. The same idea applies to insurance claims: the sooner you file, the better.
If you were recently injured in a car accident, our Chicago car accident attorneys can help you file a claim to get compensation for your damages. For a free case review, call the Rhatigan Law Offices at (312) 578-8502.
How Long After a Car Accident Can You File a Lawsuit in Illinois?
The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Illinois can be found under 735 ILCS § 5/13-202. This statute holds that an injured victim has 2 years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. This law applies to general personal injuries, including car accident cases. Our Illinois car accident lawyers can help you assess your case and file your claims before the statute of limitation expires.
Who you sue for your injuries might affect the statute of limitations. While many car accidents are caused by other drivers’ negligence, some are caused by faulty vehicles. Suppose you were injured in a car accident because your brakes were defective, and you could not stop the vehicle. In that case, you might not sue another driver but your vehicle’s manufacturer. In such a case, your lawsuit must abide by the statute of repose. This works similar to a statute of limitation but applies to the construction of buildings or the manufacture of goods. The statute of repose in Illinois product liability cases can be found under 735 ILCS § 5/13-213(b) and states that the case must be filed within 12 years of the date the vehicle is initially purchased.
The statute of repose in a car accident case does not necessarily begin to run on the day you purchased the vehicle. Instead, it begins on the day the vehicle was originally purchased from the manufacturer or dealership. If you purchased your car as a used vehicle 5 years after it was originally purchased, your case might still be within the statute of repose, and you can sue the manufacturer. If the car is older and was originally purchased more than 12 years ago, you might have to explore other legal options.
What to Do if You Waited Too Long to File a Lawsuit After an Illinois Car Accident?
It is important that injured car accident victims speak to an attorney to get their claims off the ground as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, and numerous obstacles might stand in your way. If you end up waiting too long, our Illinois personal injury attorneys can help you determine if your deadline to file your claims has passed or if you have other legal options.
One of the first options our Illinois car accident lawyers can help you investigate is the tolling of the statute of limitation. When a statute is tolled, the clock ticking down to the deadline is put on hold. How long this pause lasts depends on why you need to toll the statute in the first place.
You can often toll the statute of limitations for disabilities or infancy. Legally speaking, a disability is not necessarily a physical or medical condition that most people would think of as a disability. It may include any conditions preventing you from filing your case independently. For example, if your accident was so bad that you were placed into a medically induced coma for 4 weeks, we could argue that those 4 weeks should not count toward your filing deadline.
It is normal to hesitate before filing a lawsuit because lawsuits are usually very big steps, time-consuming, and emotionally draining. However, general hesitation cannot be used to toll the statute. If you are unsure about filing, speak to an attorney about your case rather than let precious time slip away.
Reasons People Might Wait to File Lawsuits After Car Accidents in Illinois
As mentioned before, people who are under a legal disability or were younger than 18 at the time of the car accident might be unable to sue. According to 735 ILCS 5/13-112, you can toll the statute for disability and minors.
Under the law, a person experiencing a legal disability or who was a minor when they were injured can toll the statute of limitation until they reach the age of 18 or their disability ceases. Once that happens, they have 2 years to file their lawsuit for the car accident.
Under the Illinois statute of limitation for personal injuries, there is a provision for cases involving criminal prosecution. If the defendant in your case is also criminally charged for the accident, the criminal prosecution must come before your civil lawsuit. For example, if the other driver is charged with alcohol-related offenses or a hit and run, your personal injury case might be put on hold until the criminal case is complete. However, the law states that the civil statute of limitations for your personal injury lawsuit will be tolled until criminal prosecution is complete.
Pros and Cons of Waiting to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident in Illinois
Regardless of your reasons for waiting, there might be advantages and disadvantages to playing wait-and-see. However, do not wait too long as you might run afoul of the statute of limitations or lose important evidence. Our Aurora car accident attorneys can help you weigh your options while you decide what your next move should be.
Advantages to Waiting
Ideally, you should begin your lawsuit as soon as possible. However, many injured drivers are not ready to begin a lawsuit right after surviving a traumatic car accident. It is understandable to want some time to heal and reflect on the situation before making such an important decision. Doing so might even have a few benefits.
Waiting to begin your claims allows our Naperville car accident attorneys more time to assess your damages. Your damages include the injuries and losses you sustained in the accident. Your damages are assessed based on their economic value. Over time, your injuries might change, you might need additional medical treatment, or more details about your injuries might emerge. For example, suppose after your car accident, you are making good progress in recovering from your injuries. However, your condition suddenly worsens, and you can no longer work. At that point, we can reassess your damages and claim additional medical costs in addition to lost wages. While we might be able to reassess your damages after we file the case, it might be difficult to go back and amend your complaint to include new damages if too much time has passed.
We can also use this time to gather as much evidence as possible. When collecting evidence, car accident scenes are sometimes hard to deal with because they are quickly cleared away by law enforcement. We might need extra time to hunt for physical evidence or track down witnesses who have important information about the accident.
Waiting to file your claims might also allow new information to come to light. For example, suppose you are considering suing another driver because they slammed into your car at an intersection. However, as you wait and mull over your decision to sue, we discover that the other driver hit you because their brakes were defective. In that case, our legal strategy might change. We might now consider suing the manufacturer of the other driver’s vehicles in a product liability lawsuit.
Disadvantages to Waiting
While waiting to begin your lawsuit or file other claims regarding a car accident might seem like a good idea, you must be careful about how long you wait. The longer you wait, the more evidence you risk losing, and it might become more and more difficult to win your case.
Evidence is crucial in any claim after a car accident. Most evidence is gathered over time after the accident. Even if you want to wait to file your case, you should never wait to begin gathering evidence. Important evidence might come directly from the crash site, which will likely be cleared away shortly after the accident.
Additionally, witnesses to your accident might relocate as you are waiting to begin your case. People move all the time, and it can be difficult to keep track of witnesses if they leave town, the county, or the state. In some cases, witnesses relocate and cannot be found or are unwilling to come back and testify.
Even if we can gather all the evidence we need while waiting to file your lawsuit, the amount of time we wait might be a red flag for a jury. Jurors can be prone to unfair assumptions about plaintiffs. For example, they might assume that if your injuries had been as serious as you claim, you would have filed much sooner, and they might be less inclined to rule in your favor.
Filing an Insurance Claim After an Illinois Car Accident
After a car accident, you should not only be thinking about when you can file a lawsuit but also about when you should submit an insurance claim. Deadlines on insurance claims are a bit harder to hammer out because they often vary between insurance companies.
Often, insurance companies want claimants to file their car accident claims as soon as possible. Many companies impose their own deadlines, and you should speak to an attorney about your insurance claim and file it on time. It is fairly common for insurance companies to impose filing deadlines of a few weeks, although some deadlines might be longer or shorter.
Illinois is a fault-based insurance state, meaning you must file a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance to get financial compensation for your damages. You should also notify your own insurance provider about the accident just in case the other driver is uninsured or you cannot get their insurance information. Again, each insurance company might have its own rules and regulations regarding the time you have to file a claim. Our Rockford car accident attorneys can help you file your claim within the relevant deadline.
When Insurance Claims Take Too Long and the Deadline Expires on Illinois Car Accident Lawsuits
You do not have to wait for your insurance claim to be completed to file a lawsuit. Insurance companies are known for underhanded tactics to get out of paying, and waiting you out might be their plan all along. It is not unusual for injured accident victims to file an insurance claim with the other driver’s insurance only to wait for months until the insurance company moves forward with the claim.
Rather than wait for the insurance claim to be denied, our Joliet, IL car accident lawyers can help you file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit can put pressure on the insurance company to move your claim along as quickly as possible. It also sends the message that you mean business and they might be more likely to offer a better settlement deal.
If your claim is denied or the settlement deal is not enough, your lawsuit has already been filed, and an attorney can help you take the issue to court. This is a great legal strategy that can help push your insurance claim forward while preserving your right to file a lawsuit if the insurance claim does not pan out.
Call Our Illinois Car Accident Lawyers for a Free Initial Case Assessment
After a car accident, the clock almost immediately begins counting down to the deadline for filing your claims. It is best to contact our Chicago personal injury attorneys as soon as you can to go over your legal options. For a free case review, call the Rhatigan Law Offices at (312) 578-8502.