Personal injury cases have a time limit in which you can file a claim. Once that time limit expires, you’re no longer able to file a lawsuit. The reason for this is to make sure lawsuits are handled in a timely manner before supporting evidence deteriorates, but it can mean the difference between receiving adequate compensation and not.
Two-Year Statute of Limitations
Most personal injury cases in the state have a two-year statute of limitations. That means you must pursue a lawsuit within two years of the incident that caused your injury.
For example, if you were in a car accident and received some neck injuries, you’d have to file a lawsuit within two years of the accident. If you wait until after that point before pursuing damages, you won’t be able to take your case to court.
But what happens if your injuries aren’t immediately apparent? In those cases, a discovery rule applies, in which the statute of limitations time limit doesn’t start until after you discover—or should have discovered—your injury.
In the car accident example, if you don’t experience neck pain until a year after the incident, the statute of limitations would likely start from the day you recognize the injury. That means two years from the day you started feeling pain rather than two years from the accident itself.
Statute of Repose
In addition to the statute of limitations, Illinois also has a statute of repose on many items, usually products or building construction. This time period varies by type, but it may cut your time short when it comes to filing a claim.
For example, if your car accident resulted from a faulty brake system, you’d have a product liability case. Since Illinois’s statute of repose on product manufacturing is ten years, you’d have to file your lawsuit within ten years of your brake system’s manufacture. If you’d owned the car for more than ten years, then you wouldn’t be able to pursue a product liability claim.
Exceptions to the Rules
In some cases, specific exceptions to the rules may apply. For example, the statute of limitations may not start until after:
- An injured victim turns 18.
- A legally disabled person recovers from their disability.
- The defendant returns to the state after having left.
In the last example, if the person who caused the accident left the state at any point before a lawsuit could be filed, their period of absence won’t count toward the two year limit.
Which Rules Apply to Me?
In any personal injury case, you’ll want to act as promptly as possible. Any amount of waiting will risk putting you past the statute of limitations or other time limits, and if it doesn’t, it could still potentially undermine your case.
That said, if you:
- Didn’t notice an injury until some time after the accident
- Were under 18 years of age at the time of the injury
- Are legally disabled
- Were injured by someone who is not currently in the state
Then you may have some extra time to file a lawsuit. That said, you should consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as you can.