What is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims in Illinois

A wrongful death claim might arise when someone is killed because of another person’s negligence or intentional conduct. Whether or not the defendant is criminally charged, they can be held accountable for your grievous loss.

Wrongful death claims can be emotionally difficult for plaintiffs to handle, and it is not unusual for people to need some time to grieve before taking legal action. While taking time to process such a tragic loss is understandable, you must submit your claims before the statutory deadline lapses. In Illinois, most wrongful death claims have to be filed within 2 years of the deceased person’s death. This deadline might be longer if your loved one was the victim of intentional acts of violence. There might also be circumstances that allow you to extend the deadline. If you realize the deadline for your case is fast approaching or has expired, talk to a lawyer about taking action as soon as possible or exploring other legal avenues for compensation.

Schedule a free review of your case by calling our Chicago wrongful death lawyers at the Rhatigan Law Offices at (312) 578-8502.

Statutes of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Illinois

Your deadline may be determined by how your family member or loved one passed away. The Illinois statute of limitations for wrongful death claims, found under 740 I.L.C.S. § 180/2(d), establishes a 2-year deadline to file your claim for claims related to negligence. This deadline likely applies to most claims, and negligence is a common reason behind many wrongful death lawsuits.

A second deadline applies to wrongful death cases in which the deceased person passed away because of the defendant’s violent, intentional conduct. In such circumstances, plaintiffs have until 5 years after their loved one passes away to file their claims in court.

Speaking of criminal charges and time limits on civil cases, there is a third way to determine the deadline on your wrongful death claim if the defendant is criminally charged with a violent crime. Plaintiffs may have 1 year after the final disposition of the criminal case if the defendant is facing charges for any of the following crimes in connection with your loved one’s wrongful death:

  • First-degree murder
  • Intentional homicide of an unborn child
  • Second-degree murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter of an unborn child
  • Involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide
  • Involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide of an unborn child
  • Drug-induced homicide

The final disposition might not necessarily be when the jury reads its verdict at the end of the defendant’s criminal trial. There might be appeals and other legal matters surrounding the case that must be exhausted. The final disposition sometimes does not happen for several years, so this deadline could be quite long under certain circumstances.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims in Illinois

The deadlines imposed under these statutes are not totally rigid, and our Joliet, IL wrongful death attorneys might be able to help you bend the rules if the necessary conditions exist. It might be possible to have the statutory deadline tolled so that you have additional time to file your claim.


Special exceptions might be made for plaintiffs who were minors when the cause of action arose. Since minors are often unable to sue on their own behalf, statutes of limitations may be tolled until the minor plaintiff turns 18. Once the plaintiff is 18, the statute begins to run as normal, and the plaintiff must file their claims within 2 years, i.e., until their 20th birthday.

This sometimes comes up in claims for wrongful death when the only family the deceased victim leaves behind is a minor child. For example, if a single parent passes away after a car accident, their young child is eligible to file a wrongful death claim but might be unable to do so until they are an adult.


Another common reason for having the statute tolled is if the plaintiff is disabled, often because of some mental incapacitation, and cannot file their claim independently. Disability for the purposes of having the statute of limitations tolled can be a physical or mental disability that prevents the plaintiff from advocating for their legal rights in a lawsuit.

Generally, the plaintiff may have the statute of limitations tolled until their disability ceases. As such, a plaintiff might have a number of years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the disability is not expected to cease, such as permanent disabilities, the court might appoint a guardian to advocate on the plaintiff’s behalf.

What Do I Do if the Statute of Limitations on my Wrongful Death Claim in Illinois Expires?

If you believe the statute of limitations for your wrongful death claim has expired, you should call a Naperville, IL wrongful death attorney immediately. While an expired deadline is certainly not good, it might not be the end of your case. A lawyer can help you determine whether you have options for tolling the statute or otherwise buying more time. If there are no tolling options, your attorney can help you look into other possible avenues for compensation.

Was the defendant in your case criminally charged? If they were, you might have a different deadline than you think. If the defendant’s criminal case is ongoing, you should have until 1 year after the final disposition to file your claim. In some cases, defendants are not criminally charged right away but are only charged after a lengthy criminal investigation. Such a situation might give you more time to file your claims.

Contact Our Illinois Wrongful Death To Discuss Your Claim

Schedule a free review of your case at the Rhatigan Law Offices by calling our Rockford, IL wrongful death lawyers at (312) 578-8502.