Statute of Limitations in Illinois
When you’ve just lost a loved one through the actions of another person — whether negligent or intentional — probably the last thing you want to deal with in the aftermath of your grief is the legal bureaucracy involved in filing a lawsuit. That’s OK, because Illinois law doesn’t make you deal with that right away. The law gives you a period of time called a statute of limitations, during which you have some breathing room to perform tasks such as gathering your paperwork, hiring a lawyer, investigating the accident or act of malpractice that caused your loved one’s death, and attempting to negotiate a settlement of your claim.
Even though you have some time before a lawsuit must be filed, if you think you might have a wrongful death case it’s better to talk to a lawyer sooner rather than later. Missing the deadline can have serious consequences for your family’s ability to seek compensation for your loss.
When Must a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Be Filed in Illinois?
The Wrongful Death Act, 740 ILCS 180/2, says that wrongful death lawsuits must commence within two years after the death occurred. If, for example, your family member was involved in a serious car crash and died in the hospital several days later, it’s the date of your loved one’s death that would start the clock ticking toward the statute of limitations, not the accident itself.
A wrongful death action can only be brought on behalf of a surviving spouse or next of kin. When the next of kin is a child under age 18, the statute of limitations clock starts ticking when the minor turns 18. The lawsuit must be brought within two years of that person turning 18.
What Happens if My Lawsuit is Filed Too Late?
The statute of limitations is an important and very rigid legal deadline. A lawsuit must be commenced before the statute of limitations time period runs out, or you forever lose any ability to recover damages for the death of your loved one. If a lawsuit is filed after the statute of limitations runs out, your case would be dismissed and you would get nothing.
If you think you may have a claim resulting from the wrongful death of a loved one, plan to talk to an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as is feasible. Ask your lawyer about the statute of limitations and how it would work in your case to make sure this crucial deadline is not missed. Call us at for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.