Statute of Limitations in Illinois: Personal Injury

Statue of Limitations Illinois

If you are injured in an accident caused by someone else, you have the right to seek compensation.

However, the personal injury statute of limitations in Illinois restricts the time you have to file a claim after an accident.

If you have suffered an injury in an accident that wasn’t your fault, it is important that you speak with a personal injury attorney right away.

Your attorney can help you understand and comply with important deadlines in your case.

What Is the Statute of Limitations in Illinois For a Personal Injury Claim?

The Illinois statute of limitations for personal injury is two years from the date of the accident.

This limitations period applies to claims for things like:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Product liability
  • Medical malpractice

The time limit is shorter if the defendant is a government entity. For cities and counties, you have one year to file suit.

For the State of Illinois, you have two years to file in court, but you must file a formal complaint with the state within one year to preserve your right to sue.

Full Episode Transcript

Welcome to Legal Squeaks. I am your host, Dennis VanDerGinst. And before we start on today’s topic, I want to remind you all, please subscribe to Legal Squeaks and click the like button on your favorite podcast platform.

It’s free, it’s easy and we’d be forever grateful. Today, I’m going to talk to you about an important legal deadline known as the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is the law that sets the maximum amount of time that parties involved in a dispute have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense, whether that’s a civil or criminal offense. So in criminal cases, that’s the law that forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years ago.

In civil cases, it refers to the time frame in which someone may file a lawsuit against someone else. Failure to do so within that time frame can forever bar them from the right to do so. Ironically, the initials SOL are very appropriate because if you miss the deadlines outlined by the statute of limitations, you may also be pardon the language, but “shit out of luck” when it comes to getting your remedy for your legal problem. So that’s in a nutshell, pretty easy, right?

Well, if only that were the case. But as with many legal issues, there are variations and exceptions that often apply. For instance, there are different deadlines for criminal cases, depending upon whether they refer to state or federal charges. And obviously, they also differ depending on the nature of the charges that are alleged. But since the decisions as to prosecute prosecuting a criminal case generally rests with various state or federal prosecutors who evaluate whether any time limitations may apply. We’re not going to delve very deeply into the SOLs as they apply to criminal cases.

And we’re going to focus more on civil cases. The deadlines for civil cases depend on which state laws apply and the type of civil case. For instance, is it a contract case? Is it an injury case? Is it a medical malpractice case, etc.? In addition, there are sometimes exceptions that might be applied under certain circumstances, and these exceptions can either extend or shorten the requisite times to file. And there are also sometimes additional notice requirements must be met in order to pursue a legal remedy.

And what I mean by that is that in some cases, in some states, in addition with complying with a statute of limitations, perhaps you’re also required to serve notice of your potential claim to various parties. Or in other situations, situations you may need to exhaust other administrative remedies before you’re allowed to file a lawsuit. For instance, in Iowa, an injured person intending to pursue a Dram shop action–and that’s an action where one person is alleging that he or she was injured as a result of someone becoming over served and thus intoxicated–in those situations,

You–if you’re in Iowa–an injured person has to file a written notice with the appropriate party within six months of the date of the accident. And that’s a notice of their intention to file a lawsuit. It’s not an actual filing of a lawsuit, but if they fail to file that notice, their case may be dismissed even if they filed the lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations. Likewise, in Iowa and other states, before being allowed to file a lawsuit against a state entity or a state employee, you must first submit the claim through an administrative process.

And if you don’t go through that administrative process first, again, your lawsuit, even if it’s timely, filed within the statute of limitations, might be dismissed. In most states and in most civil cases, the date which triggers the statute of limitations may also be delayed if the complaining party is under a legal disability at that at the time, it would have otherwise been triggered. For instance, in most if not all states a minors triggering date for the statute of limitations does not begin until they’ve attained their majority, at age 18.

So in a state like Illinois, where the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases, for instance, is two years, if the person who was harmed was a minor at the time of the injury, their statute of limitations would not accrue and therefore would not, it would not accrue until their 18th birthday and therefore it would not expire until two years after reaching their 18th–18th birthday. And these types of exceptions vary from state to state. Normally, also, they’re not only applicable to minor plaintiffs, but also those who are suffering from any legal disability.

Another exception, which sometimes applies to statute of limitations requirements is what’s known as the discovery rule. This often applies in the context of medical malpractice cases. And the way that works is to delay that triggering of the statute of limitations to the date that the plaintiff knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care, reasonably should have known of the injury and the negligence. This doctrine protects people in circumstances where they can’t discover, discover their injury until the statute of limitations has already run.

So, for instance, in the context of a medical malpractice case, sometimes a person’s unaware of the injury or the negligence until after that requisite time period. For instance, if it’s two years, perhaps they’re not aware beyond two years that they’ve even been injured. For example, it’s not that uncommon for surgical instruments or sponges to be left inside someone during a surgical procedure. That type of negligence can certainly cause injury or illness long after the procedure. And the plaintiff, the harmed person, may not even feel the effects of that negligence until after the statute of limitations would have already expired.

Therefore, it’s only reasonable that an exception and extension be applied when there was no reasonable way for the injured party to have known that they had been injured or understood the nature of the injury until after the deadline had passed. Statutes of limitations can also vary depending on the nature of the defendant. For instance, in some states, the statute of limitations is shorter if the defendant is a city or a county.

So for all of these reasons, if you have a potential legal case against someone, it makes sense to reach out to an attorney in order to ensure that you don’t miss your opportunity to pursue that case due to missing important notices or filing deadlines.

I hope this information was useful. I hope that you’ll never have to use it. Please check in to Legal Squeaks next week when we’ll discuss another important legal or consumer matter which may impact your daily life. If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast platform. Also, please check out our other podcast, Uncommon Convos. And you can go to LegalSqueaks.Com to suggest topics for future episodes and to check out the video version of this and other episodes. Until then, when we see you next week,

Stay safe, and I love you all.

What Happens If I Don’t File My Claim on Time?

If you file a lawsuit after the limitations period has passed, the court will likely dismiss your case.

Even if you have already started negotiating with the insurance company before the limitations period expires, it is important that you file a formal complaint with the court within the limitations period.

If the period expires before you reach a settlement, you will lose your leverage.

The insurance company can simply refuse to settle, and you will have no remedy.

Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?

There are some exceptions to the personal injury statute of limitations in Illinois that will extend your time to file.

These exceptions pause or “toll” the statute of limitations for a certain period of time.

Discovery Rule

Sometimes you can suffer injury in an accident without knowing it.

In this situation, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the time you discovered or should have discovered your injuries.

This rule is most likely to apply to medical malpractice cases, but it can occasionally affect other types of personal injury cases too.


If the defendant resides in another state, Illinois may not be able to exercise jurisdiction over them.

In that case, Illinois law tolls the statute of limitations during the time the person is outside the state.

Legal Disability

If someone is unable to pursue a claim due to a legal disability, the statute of limitations is tolled until the disability is removed.

Generally, this applies to people who are institutionalized or have a serious mental illness.


In most cases, if a person is under the age of 18 at the time of the accident, they will have two years from the time they turn 18 to file a suit.

How Can VanDerGinst Law Help?

An experienced personal injury attorney at VanDerGinst Law can help you comply with the statute of limitations in the state of Illinois.

If the deadline for your claim has passed, we can determine whether you might benefit from an exception to the statute of limitations.

VanDerGinst Law has been helping personal injury victims for over 30 years.

We know how to successfully handle a personal injury claim and maximize your compensation.

Contact us by phone or online to learn more about what we can do for you.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This