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What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident in Illinois?

June 19, 2024

After a serious auto wreck caused by someone else, you need to understand the statute of limitations for a car accident in Illinois. When you have a personal injury or wrongful death claim after a car accident in Illinois, you must file your claim before the statute of limitations expires. Once the statute of limitations expires, you will lose your right to file a claim—even if there is no question that you would otherwise be entitled to financial compensation. 

This makes knowing the statute of limitations extremely important. So, what is the statute of limitations for a car accident in Illinois?

The short answer is, “It depends.” Here’s what you need to know: 

The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims Involving Car Accidents is Two Years from the Date of the Accident 

As a general rule, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims involving car accidents is two years from the date of the accident (though, as we discuss below, there are some important exceptions). This means that if you get injured in a car accident on New Year’s Eve, you must file your claim before New Year’s Eve two years later. 

Again, to be absolutely clear, this is a hard-and-fast rule. If you are late in filing your claim by even a single day, you won’t be able to recover the financial compensation you deserve. 

The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims Involving Car Accidents is Two Years from the Date of Death 

The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims involving car accidents is also two years in most cases. However, unlike the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims runs from the date of death. As a result, if you lost a loved one who passed away in the days or weeks following a catastrophic accident, his or her date of death will determine when the statute of limitations for your family’s claim expires. While this may provide some additional time to file your family’s claim, it is still important that you wait no longer than necessary. 

Several Exceptions Apply

While these are the general statutes of limitations for car accident claims in Illinois, there are several exceptions. Here are three of the most common examples:

  • Fatal DUI Accidents – In Illinois, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is extended to five years from the date of death (or one year from the at-fault driver’s conviction) in cases involving involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide. In some cases, fatal DUI accidents can lead to involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide charges under Illinois law. Fatal accidents can lead to reckless homicide charges in some other scenarios as well.
  • Car Accidents Resulting in Injuries to Minors – If your child was injured in a car accident in Illinois, the two-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until your child’s 18th birthday. This is true regardless of your child’s age at the time of the accident. Keep in mind, however, that if you were also injured in the accident, the standard two-year limitations period still applies to your personal claim for damages. 
  • Car Accidents Involving Government Vehicles – Car accident cases involving government vehicles are governed by different laws than those that apply in most circumstances. The specific law that applies (and the specific statute of limitations that applies) depends on whether the vehicle involved is owned by a local, state, or federal governmental authority. In some cases, the statute of limitations for filing a claim against the government can be significantly shorter than the relevant statute of limitations discussed above—so this makes it especially important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. 

In all cases, a key fact to remember about the statute of limitations is that it establishes the deadline for filing a claim in court. As a result, filing an insurance claim does not preserve your legal rights. When you’re dealing with the insurance companies, time can go by quickly, so it is critical to make sure you work with a lawyer who can take your case to court on time if necessary. 

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer for Free

Regardless of how long you have to file a claim after a car accident in Illinois, it is best to start the process as soon after the accident as possible. If you fail to take action within the appropriate window of time, you may lose the opportunity to recover damages for your physical, financial, and emotional losses.

Our lawyers are here to help. To discuss your claim with an experienced car accident lawyer at Coplan + Crane for FREE, call 708-358-8080 or tell us how we can reach you online today. We welcome clients from across Illinois, including Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and other areas.