In a moment’s notice, a car accident can occur. In a matter of seconds, a severe crash that leaves you with injuries and damages may happen. A crash like this can be shocking, upsetting, and cause anxiety about the future. Most people who are involved in accidents that are caused by the fault or negligence of another party wonder what their rights are and whether they have grounds to bring forth a lawsuit for damages.
At the office of Glenn & West, our Illinois car accident attorneys can guide you through everything you need to know about your rights following a serious car accident, including how the statute of limitations on car accident claims in Illinois can impact your case. To learn more about the statute of limitations for car accidents in Illinois, and everything else you need to know about filing a car accident claim, call our law firm directly.
When Can I File a Claim After a Car Accident?
When you are involved in a car accident that is caused by the fault of another party, you have the right to pursue damages by filing a claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy (all drivers are required to carry this type of insurance in Illinois). If you are in a crash and believe the other driver was at fault, you should notify your insurance company immediately—the company should commence the claims process on your behalf.
While most claims settle out of court, sometimes an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached. When a settlement cannot be reached, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party (the defendant). In order to win your suit, you’ll need to prove:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- The defendant breached the duty of care owed to you
- The breach of the duty of care was the proximate cause of your harm
- You have suffered actual damages as a result
Note that “breach of duty of care” refers to doing something outside of what a reasonable person in the same situation would do, or acting negligently. Speeding, drunk driving, and distracted driving are all examples of behaviors that reach the duty that a driver owes to others on the road.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
If you are thinking about filing a lawsuit, then one of the most important considerations is the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a legal limit on how much time can pass before an action can no longer be pursued. There are both civil and criminal statutes of limitations, as well as state and federal statutes of limitation. In the event of a car accident, the state statute of limitations for personal injury claims, which are a form of civil suit, will apply. The statute outlines how much time can pass before your right to file a civil lawsuit for damages is forfeited.
What Happens if I Breach the Statute of Limitations?
Statutes of limitation have real legal bearing; if you breach the statute of limitations, then your right to file a claim is lost. This means that once the statute of limitations expires, you will lose your right to pursue any damages for your losses unless you have already commenced your civil action. In very rare circumstances, a judge may allow a claim to proceed even if the statute of limitations has passed, but this is highly unlikely.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in Illinois?
The statute of limitations in Illinois is two years from the cause of action. This is found in 735 ILCS 5/13-202, which reads:
“Actions for damages for an injury to the person, or for false imprisonment, or malicious prosecution, or for a statutory penalty, or for abduction, or for seduction, or for criminal conversation that may proceed pursuant to subsection (a) of Section 7.1 of the Criminal Conversation Abolition Act, except damages resulting from first degree murder or the commission of a Class X felony and the perpetrator thereof is convicted of such crime, shall be commenced within 2 years next after the cause of action accrued…”
This means that if your accident occurred on January 1, 2022, then you would have until January 1, 2024 to file a lawsuit. Remember, if you do not file your lawsuit in that time frame, you will be barred from recovery.
Note, again, that most claims do settle out of court. However, in the event that your claim does not settle, you should be prepared to file a lawsuit. This is why paying attention to the statute of limitations is so important.
How Can an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Help Me?
If you have been in a car accident, calling an experienced Illinois car accident attorney is one of the most important things that you can do. A car accident attorney can greatly improve the outcome of your case by:
- Investigating your case, including talking to eyewitnesses, gathering photographs and video evidence, getting copies of police reports, sending spoliation of evidence letters, and hiring accident reconstruction experts
- Calculating the full value of your economic (monetary) and noneconomic (intangible) losses
- Managing all of your claim documents and representing you in all conversations with the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim
- Proving the elements of a claim—duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages
- Representing you during settlement negotiations and advocating for the greatest possible settlement amount
- Handling your case if litigation is required, including guiding you through filing requirements and other legal requirements, such as the statute of limitations
Call Our Illinois Car Accident Lawyers Today
If you have more questions about the statute of limitations for a car accident in Illinois, or if you or a loved one has been in a serious car accident and needs to recover compensation for injuries, call our law firm directly today. We offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis. You can reach our Illinois car accident lawyers online or by phone to get started.