Statute of Limitations

By: Jack Cannon

As the end of the year approaches, many of us take time to reflect on things that have happened in the past year in addition to events that we look forward to in the coming year. There are many personal reasons for reflecting on certain important dates that approach such as weddings, christenings, birthdays, graduations, communions, etc… From a professional or business point of view, it is also a good time to review important dates that have passed or are approaching in the coming year. In the legal profession, one of the most important dates, if not the most important date that lawyers observe and frequently review is the statute date or the statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations is a law which places a time limit on pursuing a legal remedy in relation to wrongful contact. After the expiration of the statutory period the aggrieved person or party loses the right to file a lawsuit to seek monetary damages or other relief unless a legal exception applies. All lawsuits have a statute of limitation. It can be challenging for an attorney let alone a lay person to keep track of the various statutes and their exceptions. Anyone who is concerned about losing their right to sue as a result of the expiration of the statute of limitations should contact a qualified attorney who can help them determine which statutes apply and help preserve the right to a remedy.

The following represents a sample of the statutory limitation periods in the state of Illinois. However, it should be noted that this is an example of statutes of limitations and there maybe exceptions that apply which may extend or limit your cause of action. In addition, it is often possible to bring multiple causes of action from a single accident of wrongful conduct or even alternative theories of recovery which may change or extend your statute of limitation. Again, we highly recommend that you consult counsel before making a decision as it pertains to the statute of limitations.


The standard statute of limitations for an auto accident in the state of Illinois is two years from the date of injury. However, like most laws there are exceptions to this time period. If your accident involves a municipal or similar governmental bodies, you may be required to file suit within one year of the date of injury. In addition, some governmental entities must be given notice of the cause of action within six months of the date of accident.


A medical negligence case must be filed within two years of the date of the act giving rise to the injury. If the injury cannot reasonably be discovered during that two year period the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date that the injured party knew or should have known of the malpractice but in no event more than four years after the date of the act giving rise to the injury. This is sometimes known as the discovery rule.

The discovery rule is a rule that has been provided to allow individuals to file a lawsuit within a certain time period after the injury has been discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. There are occasions where it is not possible for a person to discover the cause of an injury or even to know if an injury has occurred until a considerable time after the act which causes the injury. For example, the misdiagnosis of an illness or injury or the failure to diagnosis an illness or injury may not be discovered until months or even years after a standard two year time limitation has run. Also, if there has been continuous medical treatment by the same provider, that may affect the date on which the statute will begin to run.


A product liability action must be brought within two years after the plaintiff suffers the injury. If the injury is not discovered within the two year time limit, suit may be filed within two years of the date of discovery, but in no event more than eight years of the date that the injury occurred.


In general injury, medical malpractice or product liability cases, a minor’s age at the time of injury will determine when suit must be filed.; Generally a minor has two years after his or her eighteenth birthday to file an action. However in medical malpractice cases at most, a minor has eight years from the malpractice to file suit.


Formal notice of injury should be given to employer as soon as possible but not later than 45 days after the injury. In general the rule is an injured worker has 3 years after date of injury, or 2 years from the date of the last payment of compensation.

Because of its complexity, there has been much litigation over the question as to the time for filing litigation. We strongly advise anyone injured to contact an injury lawyer before making a determination as to which statute of limitations may or may not apply to their particular case. SIMPLY, get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible after an injury.