If you believe you have a potential personal injury case but have been putting off starting the process, you should know that there are indeed time limits on how long after your injury a lawsuit can be filed. I sometimes receive calls from people who would have had good cases if not for the fact that their injuries occurred several years ago. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do in this situation.
Knowing about the Statute of Limitations is part of knowing your rights and can help you avoid finding yourself in the situation I just described. Here’s what you should know:
What is the Statute of Limitations?
The Statute of Limitations is a piece of law that establishes how long after a particular occurrence you have to file a cause of action (or legal case) due to that occurrence. In other words, it is a deadline on how long you have to file a lawsuit.
For injury attorneys like myself, this means that in every case, we have a specific date that is the last date we can possibly file a Complaint. However, the process leading up to this deadline involves more work than just drafting and filing a Complaint – if you’ve ever been part of a personal injury case, you know that typically, significant time is needed to finish up your medical treatment, gather all of the relevant medical records and bills, and attempt to settle the matter with the third-party insurance company outside of court. Therefore, no matter how close or far off the Statute of Limitations on your case is, it’s best to get started as soon as possible.
How Long Is It?
The actual length of the Statute of Limitations varies depending on the type of case and where in the United States you are.
For most personal injury cases in Illinois, the Statute of Limitations is exactly two years from the date the injury occurred.
Are There Exceptions?
There are some cases in which the length of time you have to file an injury lawsuit may be more or less than the standard two years. Here are some of the most common exceptions:
- If the defendant is a municipal entity – this includes city and county governments themselves, as well as entities such as park districts and forest preserves. In these cases, the deadline is only one year from the date of injury.
- If you were a minor when you were injured – in some cases, if the plaintiff was a child when they were injured, the Statute of Limitations expires two years after their 18th birthday rather than after the date of injury.
- If you discovered the injury much later – occasionally, you may be able to file a lawsuit up to two years after the date you discovered the injury rather than the date it actually occurred. However, this is extremely tricky because you have to convince the court that you could not possibly have known about the injury when it first happened, which is generally not an easy task.
While these exceptions exist, you should not rely on them to keep your case viable for longer. It is much safer not to count on any sort of deadline extension when it comes to filing your personal injury case.
What Should I Do if I’m Running Out of Time?
Talk to an attorney right away! A qualified lawyer can help you assess your options, and reaching out to them as soon as possible will give them the chance to start gathering the necessary information to make the best possible decisions for your case.
We at the Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond are always happy to answer your questions. For more information or to discuss your injury case, reach out to us on our website or at (312) 258-8188.