What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Illinois?

Question

What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Illinois?

Answer

First, for those who aren’t fluent in legalese, a “statute of limitations” is a state law that limits the amount of time you have to go to court and file a lawsuit after you’ve suffered some type of harm or loss. There are different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.

In most cases, the statute of limitations that affects a car accident lawsuit in Illinois is the same as the larger one that applies to all personal injury cases filed in the state. Specifically, 735 Illinois Compiled Statutes section 5/13-202 says, "Actions for damages for an injury to the person...shall be commenced within two years next after the cause of action accrued." That means you have to get your lawsuit filed within two years of the date of the car accident.

But the filing deadline can be a little different if anyone was killed in the crash. In Illinois, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within the time limit the state has set for the underlying case, or within one year of the date of the deceased person's death, whichever is later, according to 735 ILCS 5/13-209. So, for car accident cases – which, again, must be filed within two years of the date of the accident -- that means the family or personal representatives of the deceased have at least one year, and as long as two years, to get the lawsuit filed. (Learn more about Illinois Wrongful Death Lawsuits.)

Finally, if your lawsuit is over vehicle damage only (or if you are seeking the repair or replacement of some other kind of damaged property), 735 ILCS 13-205 gives you five years to get that kind of case filed in court.

If you try to file your lawsuit after the applicable deadline has passed, you can count on the court refusing to hear it. That’s why it’s so important to understand how the statute of limitations applies to your situation.

Even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, it’s a good idea to leave plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than it will give you more leverage during settlement discussions. If you think you might be running up against the two-year deadline, it may be time to contact an experienced Illinois car accident attorney.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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