What is the Statute of Limitations on Injury Claims in Illinois

Lawsuits must be filed by a certain time or else plaintiffs might be unable to file the claim at all. Statutes of limitations vary based on the nature of the claim, and your attorney can help you determine when you should sue.

Statutes of limitations are laws that set a deadline for when plaintiffs can file a lawsuit, and they vary depending on the claim. Car accidents, for example, adhere to a 2-year deadline, which can be challenging to meet because of insurance claims and other complications. If the statute of limitations expires, you might lose your right to sue unless there is a condition that allows us to have the statute tolled. Tolling might extend your deadline and is only possible under very specific circumstances. Statutes of repose impose a maximum time limit that cannot be tolled.

Schedule a case evaluation for free with our Chicago personal injury attorneys at the Rhatigan Law Offices by calling (312) 578-8502.

How the Statute of Limitations Affects Your Injury Claims in Illinois

A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for when plaintiffs can file lawsuits. The exact deadline may vary based on the kind of claim involved, but most are usually at least a few years. Although having a couple of years to file a lawsuit sounds like a long time, it is a somewhat narrow window.

Many plaintiffs deal with things that slow down their cases. For example, it is common for injured people to file insurance claims before they file a lawsuit. If the insurance company is resistant, it might take them weeks, months, or even longer to settle with the claimant. In the meantime, the clock is ticking away on a potential lawsuit.

Our Arlington Heights personal injury attorneys can use the statute of limitations to set the pace for your claim so that all the necessary work and preparations are completed on time. If the deadline is close, the pace should be faster. If the deadline is too close, we can help you work to have the statute of limitations tolled, as discussed in more detail below.

Statutes of Limitations for Different Kinds of Injury Claims in Illinois

Certain statutes of limitations might apply to a variety of cases, but they are not exactly universal. Different claims might abide by different time limits. Also, the conditions necessary to extend the deadline might differ between claims.

General Accidents

Most accidents and injuries that fall under the broad legal category of “personal injuries” are governed by the statute of limitations under 735 I.L.C.S. § 5/13-202. Under this rule, personal injury cases must be filed no later than 2 years after the date the injuries occurred. This statute of limitations applies to many cases if not most of them. Claims for auto accidents, slip and falls, animal attacks, and other personal injuries must abide by this deadline.

An important caveat to the statute of limitations here is that it does not always start to run beginning on the date of the accident or injuries. In many cases, plaintiffs do not realize they were injured until later. In such cases, the statute of limitations might be delayed until the plaintiff realizes their injuries.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice also adheres to the 2-year statute of limitations mentioned above. However, the nature of your medical malpractice claim might affect how the statute of limitations applies to your case. Medical malpractice claims are often complicated, and injured patients do not always realize how they were injured or that malpractice occurred until a while after the fact.

For example, some malpractice cases involve negligent surgeons who leave surgical equipment like sponges or scalpels inside a patient’s body. In these cases, plaintiffs often have 2 years from when they realized the equipment was left behind to file their claim. Sometimes, the patient does not begin to experience pain or complications from the foreign objects until years after the surgery.

Wrongful Death

Wrongful death claims are unique because they are not filed by the injured victim but by surviving family members. Like many injury claims, wrongful death claims must be filed within 2 years. What sets this claim apart from other injury claims is that the statute of limitations begins at the time of death, not necessarily at the time of the injuries.

For some, the date of the injuries and the date of their loved one’s death are the same. Take, for example, a person injured in a car accident who died on impact. In that case, the statute of limitations would run from the accident date. However, suppose the injured victim hung on for 6 months in the hospital before passing away from their injuries. In that case, the deadline would run from the date of death, and the family would have 2 years to file their claim beginning 6 months after the crash.

Limitations on Injury Claims Against Government Entities in Illinois

When suing a government entity or employee, you must submit a notice of your claim to the appropriate governmental authority. The deadline to submit this notice of your claim depends on what kind of government entity you are suing.

If you are suing the local or county government, your case falls under the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. Under the law, injury claims against local government entities must be commenced within only 1 year of the date you were injured.

There are different rules regarding injury claims against the state government. You must file your claim under the Illinois Court of Claims Act. Generally, you must submit a notice of your claims to the Attorney General and the Clerk of the Court of Claims within 1 year of your injuries or file the lawsuit with the Court of Claims within 1 year.

Car Accident Injuries and the Illinois Statute of Limitations

Car accidents are some of the most commonly filed injury claims in Illinois. In severe cases, injuries might be catastrophic, and damages can be very high. Getting your lawsuit filed with the appropriate court is of paramount importance, but there are roadblocks and hurdles to overcome along the way.

Deadline to File a Lawsuit

The statute of limitations on car accidents is usually 2 years. Again, 2 years might seem like plenty of time to prepare your claims and file your case, but there is a lot to do in a relatively short time. Our Chicago car accident attorneys can help you prepare your claim as quickly as possible.

If you are the injured victim in your case, your deadline to file likely runs from the accident date. Alternatively, if you file a claim because your loved one passed away after a car accident, your deadline begins to run from the date they passed away, which might be some time after the accident.

How Long Does a Car Accident Case Take?

The 2-yeard deadline on car accident injury claims becomes very short when you consider the numerous ways we must prepare. First, injured victims often deal with insurance claims before filing a lawsuit. Since Illinois requires drivers to prove that the other driver was at fault for the crash before getting any compensation from insurance, the insurance claims process can take time. If and when the insurance company finally agrees to settle, it might not be enough to cover all your expenses, and your time to file a lawsuit has been ticking away the entire time.

Once you and your attorney decide that a lawsuit is necessary for sufficient compensation, you must begin preparing a complaint. The complaint is the document that kickstarts the lawsuit. It must contain very specific information about the people involved on both sides, your injuries and damages, evidence, and what kind of compensation you need. It is crucial that the complaint is detailed and accurate. Otherwise, the case might be rejected.

In short, preparing a lawsuit takes a lot of time and effort. If you have already endured the insurance claim process, the time to file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires might be very short.

What Happens if the Deadline to Sue in Illinois Expires?

The fact that the statute of limitations has expired does not necessarily prevent you from attempting to file your claim with the court. However, it is unlikely you will get very far. The court will likely notice how old your claims are, as information about the date and location of your accident and injuries is a necessary component of your initial complaint. At that point, the court will swiftly reject the case.

Alternatively, if the court does not realize that the statute of limitations has expired, the defendant sure will. When filing your initial complaint, you must also notify the defendant of the case. The notice must include a copy of the complaint, and the defendant and their attorney can answer the complaint and request the court dismiss the case because the statute of limitations has expired.

Extending the Deadline Imposed by Illinois Statutes of Limitations

Under specific circumstances, a plaintiff can have the statute of limitations tolled, and the deadline to file their claim may be pushed back. Having the statute of limitations tolled is often possible under a few circumstances, and even tolling has limits.


Many plaintiffs can have the statute of limitations tolled because they were a minor when the injuries occurred. For example, suppose you were injured in a car accident when you were only 17 years old driving on a learner’s permit. It is difficult, sometimes impossible, for minors to file lawsuits on their own. If an adult guardian does not step up and assist them, they risk losing their right to sue.

As such, the law allows minors to have the statute of limitations tolled until they turn 18. In many cases, this means a minor plaintiff has 2 years to file their lawsuit beginning on their 18th birthday, so they have until they turn 20 to file their claim.


The law that allows minors to have the statute of limitations tolled until they turn 18 also applies to people under a disability that prevents them from filing a lawsuit. In many cases, the term “disability” does not necessarily mean a physical impairment. Instead, the term refers to mental conditions or disorders that prevent a plaintiff from fully understanding their rights.

Suppose you experienced a disability that stopped you from filing your claim before the statute of limitations expired. In that case, you can argue to have the statute tolled until the disability is removed or ceases. This might be a few months or even a few years of extra time. To qualify, you must have been disabled when you were injured. If your disability arose after your cause of action arose but before the statute of limitations expired, the limitation might not be stayed until the disability subsides.

Criminal Prosecution

Often, defendants being sued for causing someone bodily injuries also face criminal charges for the same incidents. The courts tend to prioritize criminal proceedings over civil matters, and plaintiffs sometimes have to wait until the defendant’s criminal trial is completed before they can sue them civilly. Criminal trials sometimes take a long time, especially when the case involves serious bodily harm or death. As a result, civil plaintiffs may have the statute of limitations in their case tolled until criminal prosecution is complete.

What is the Maximum Time Limit to File an Injury Lawsuit in Illinois?

The deadlines imposed by statutes of limitations are strict but not completely rigid, and they may be tolled under certain circumstances. Statutes of repose, however, impose harsher deadlines that cannot be tolled under almost any circumstances.

For example, under 735 I.L.C.S. § 5/13-211, the statute of repose for many injury claims is 10 years. For example, if you wanted to toll the statute of limitations because you were a minor when the injury occurred, you can toll it for no more than 10 years. This is often problematic for people who were injured very young or at birth.

Product liability cases are unique injury claims because they deal with defective products that malfunction and cause injuries to unsuspecting consumers. These claims abide by somewhat more generous statutes of repose, likely to incentivize manufacturers and businesses to produce safe goods. Under the law, an injured plaintiff has no longer than 12 years from the date of the first sale of the defective good or 10 years from the date of the first sale to the initial user to file a claim.

Call Our Illinois Personal Injury Attorneys About Your Claims

Schedule a case evaluation for free with our Aurora personal injury attorneys at the Rhatigan Law Offices by calling (312) 578-8502.