Illinois Statute of Limitations, Civil Actions

The Illinois Statute of Limitations for civil actions sets a time limit after an injury or civil wrong occurs, during which an injured party can file a lawsuit. After that period of time expires, the injured party is no longer permitted to file a claim in an Illinois state court to litigate that matter. The statute ensures that lawsuits that have merit and worthy of being heard are filed within a reasonable time or not at all.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Operate?

The period of time to file a claim will vary depending upon the type of incident that occurred. A claim against a doctor for medical malpractice may be for a different length of time than against an accountant for negligence or fraud. The Illinois statute of limitations can generally be found within the Illinois Compiled Statutes and covers the following rules and exceptions in greater detail.

When does the Illinois Statute of Limitations Begin?

Other than for specific exceptions, the Illinois statute of limitations generally begins to run at the time when a “cause of action arises” – in other words, at the time when an injury occurs that would qualify for a lawsuit to be filed in an Illinois state court.

What is the Discovery Rule?

There are times when a person is unable to discover that they have been injured. For example, fraud that is concealed by an accountant and is not easily discoverable or a medical condition resulting from a doctor’s misdiagnosis that can only be detected after the patient’s health deteriorates. It wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to require the injured party to file a lawsuit when they could not have detected the injury. As a result, in such instances the Illinois statute of limitations begins to run from the time the injured party discovers or should have discovered that they have been injured.

Delaying or Tolling the Illinois Statute of Limitations

In certain circumstances, fairness would require that the statute of limitations be delayed for a period of time. A party may not have the ability to bring a case even though they are aware of an injury or damages. Delaying or “tolling” the statute of limitations typically occurs when the plaintiff is “disabled” – such as a minor child or a person who is mentally incompetent or bankrupt. Once the disability ends, the statute of limitations begins to run.

Calculating the length of time that a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit is complicated and involves many factors and exceptions. Parties that have suffered significant injuries or damages may wish to consult with an Illinois attorney to ensure that all claims and notices are filed within the time limits set forth by law.

Illinois Statute of Limitations for Civil Actions

Personal Injury and Negligence

2 years. Use the Modified Discovery Rule (when the plaintiff knew or should have known an injury occurred, regardless of whether the plaintiff knew a lawsuit could be filed.) See 735 ILCS 5/13-202

Wrongful Death

4 years with the Discovery Rule.

Medical Malpractice

2 years with the Discovery Rule but no lawsuit can be filed after 4 years from the date the malpractice occurred which caused the injury unless the defendant concealed the malpractice (and then the time period is extended.) The statute of limitations can be tolled if the plaintiff is under the age of 18 – a lawsuit must be filed within 8 years after the date which the malpractice occurred and not after the 22nd birthday of the plaintiff. See §735 ILCS 5/13-212

Legal and Professional Malpractice

6 years. See 735 ILCS 5/13-214.3

Products Liability

2 years. If an injury occurred within a 10-12 year period, a 2 year discovery rule may apply and a maximum of 8 years to bring suit is required in the case where an injury or death occurs. Statute of Repose: 12 years from the date of the first sale, rental/lease or the delivery of possession to the buyer/lessor by a seller, alternatively 10 years from the date of same to an initial user – whichever period expires first. This time can be extended if the defendant expressly stated a guaranty or warranty on the product.

Intentional Torts

2 years generally

Comparative Negligence

Yes and the modified comparative negligence division applies. In a claim that involves bodily injury, death or damage to property and recovery of damages relies upon fault, a plaintiff cannot recover damages if he or she is responsible for more than 50% of the proximate cause of the injury or damages. If the plaintiff’s contribution to the injury consisted of less than 50% of the fault, the damages awarded to the plaintiff are reduced by that amount (Total Damages = fault of defendants – fault of plaintiff.) Many rules and exceptions apply in these cases.

Contracts

10 years for written contracts (735 ILCS 5/13-206) and 5 years for oral contracts (735 ILCS 5/13-205)

Fraud

Concealment of a cause of action: 5 years (from date plaintiff discovered the cause of action to sue). See 735 ILCS 5/13-215
Fraud by decedent: 2 years. See 735 ILCS 5/13-220

Injury to Personal Property and Trespass

5 years. See 735 ILCS 5/13-205

Libel / Slander / Defamation

1 year from the date of publication (or the date when spoken). See 735 ILCS 5/13-201

Debt Collection Accounts

 

Collection of Rent

 

Judgment Enforcement

20 years and may be renewed. See 735 ILCS 5/13-218

Disabilities

Infancy (minor until reaching age 18), incompetence, imprisonment – 2 years from the removal of the disability except for medical malpractice and other actions where there may be state specific rules which may apply. A defendant who leaves the jurisdiction tolls the statute of limitations from running.

Charitable Immunity

None.

Liability of State and Municipalities

1 year including for wrongful death. There is an immunity statute in certain circumstances and there are notices of claim required in certain actions against the municipality.

No-Fault Insurance

Yes – no-fault insurance applies.

Punitive Damages

Plaintiff must show reasonable likelihood of willful or wanton actions with no punitive damages awarded unless there is a recovery for actual damages.

Consumer Fraud Complaints

Illinois Consumer Fraud Bureau

(800) 243-0618 (Carbondale)
(800) 386-5438 (Chicago)
(800) 243-0618 (Springfield)
(866) 310-8398 (Espanol)

Please Take Note: The statute of limitations laws presented are strictly provided to you “as-is”. While we believe that the legal information is accurate as of the date created, we cannot and do not provide any guarantee, analysis or conclusions. The law may have changed since this article was published. The only way to ensure that the statute of limitations law you are reading is up to date and applies to your specific issue, is to have a legal consultation with an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois.

Michael M Wechsler, Esq.

Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com and former SVP of Zedge.net. He has published hundreds of articles online covering a variety of legal topics and regularly provides free legal advice at The Law Forums.

Michael M Wechsler, Esq. – has written posts on TheLaw.com Guide.