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.
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 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.
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:
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.