What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in Illinois?

Understand and comply with the Illinois statute of limitations for lawsuits over damaged or destroyed property, or you could lose your right to get compensation from the liable party.

If you've had your property damaged in Illinois, you could be thinking about filing a lawsuit against the person or organization you think is legally responsible for what happened. If so, it’s important to understand the Illinois statute of limitations for property damage claims, whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property (including  vehicle damage).

In case you’re not familiar with the term, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that affects your right to file a lawsuit over any kind of legal dispute or harm suffered, by putting a limit on how much time can pass before you file the case in court. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.

The Property Damage Lawsuit Filing Deadline in Illinois

In Illinois, a five-year filing deadline applies to any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed property, whether it’s real property or personal property. Specifically, the Illinois Compiled Statutes say that any lawsuit "to recover damages for an injury done to property, real or personal" is subject to this five-year time limit. (735 ILCS 5/13-205)

It's important to note that this five-year deadline applies any time you’re asking a court to award you monetary compensation for damaged or destroyed property, whether that claim is part of a larger legal action (a  car accident case  that includes claims for both personal injury and vehicle damage, for example) or a standalone lawsuit.

If You Miss the Illinois Filing Deadline

If you try to file your  Illinois  property damage lawsuit after the five-year deadline has passed, the defendant (the person or organization you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare cases where an exemption from the deadline applies (more on these exceptions in the next section), the court will grant the dismissal. If that happens, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So, even if you’re pretty sure your property damage case will settle, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.

Extending the Statute of Limitations Filing Period in Illinois

In any Illinois lawsuit over property damage -- and most other kinds of civil cases -- a number of circumstances could pause ("toll" in legalese) or extend the lawsuit filing deadline set by the statute of limitations. These include:

  • If the defendant (the person you’re trying to sue) was (or is) out of the state for any period of time beginning on the date when the property damage occurred, the time of the defendant's absence won't be counted in the five-year period, or the "clock" won't start running until he or she returns to Illinois. (735 ILCS 5/13-208)
  • If the property owner is, at the time the underlying property damage occurs, under 18 years of age or under a legal disability (has been declared legally incompetent, for example), he or she will have two years to file the lawsuit upon reaching the age of 18 or having the legal disability removed. (735 ILCS 5/13-211)
  • If the property owner becomes subject to a legal disability any time after the right to file a property damage lawsuit arises, the period of disability won't be counted as part of the statute of limitations period, but if more than 10 years have passed and the legal disability still has not been removed, the right to file the lawsuit is lost. (735 ILCS 5/13-211)

Other exceptions (too complex to cover in this article) may also apply to extend the Illinois statute of limitations time limit. To learn the details of exceptions to the statute of limitations, especially if the filing deadline has passed on your property damage lawsuit -- or if the filing deadline is fast approaching -- talk with an experienced Illinois attorney.

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