Disclaimer: Statute of limitations vary state-by-state and case-by-case. This is by no means a definitive guide to the statute of limitations. The purpose of this guide is to help you better understand what statute of limitations are, how they work, and when they are applied.
The statute of limitations (SoL) is a statute prescribing a period of limitation for the bringing of certain kinds of legal action.
In layman's terms, SoL limits the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a complaint to initiate a lawsuit after an accident, injury or another incident. Statute of limitations differ state-by-state, and even within each state, statutory limitations vary for different types of cases.
The purposes of an established statute of limitations (SOL) are to disallow lawsuits from hanging on indefinitely (1) and to keep evidence fresh (2):
Statutes of limitations apply to nearly all types of cases.
There are two (2) types of SoL - a criminal statute of limitations (1) and the civil statute of limitations (2):
It is important to note that there is a specific limitations period for crimes or offenses involving minors and for incidents involving wrongful death in the United States.
In the State of Illinois, if a person is under the age of 18 at the time of the incident, the individual can file a lawsuit within two years after they turn 18, or their 20th birthday.
A wrongful death has similar circumstances to the normal statute of limitations, however, there is one vital difference. For instance, if medical malpractice occurred and the patient died, the family of the victim can file a wrongful death lawsuit within the time limit set for that particular case, or within one year of the date of death, "whichever date is the later".
Again, the Statute of Limitations varies depending on the state you live in and the nature of your case, so this guide may not be wholly applicable to your case. Your best option is to consult with a personal injury attorney to make sure that you file a complaint within the allotted time for your case's SoL so that the legal proceedings are on track. Generally, the SoL timer starts ticking down the moment that an incident occurs.
For more ambiguous incidents, the best rule of thumb to follow is that the SoL clock starts ticking at the moment that an individual knows OR should have known about an injury or potential for injury.
Looking at this example, it is important to understand that your state's SoL may be different. In some states, the SoL clock may start ticking the day that you learned that you have developed the kidney condition. In other states, the SoL clock would start on the day that you stop taking your medication. Point being, the SoL clock generally starts on either the day that you were made aware of the potential for harm or adverse events, or the day that an effort was made to make you aware of the potential for harm or adverse events.
While you could do the research on your own, you are best off consulting a personal injury attorney. The statute of limitations is not generalized, cut and dry.
There is a multitude of variables that come into play when considering how long you have to initiate a lawsuit, such as:
There is some controversy surrounding the statute of limitations and sexual offenses. Due to the nature of sexual offenses, victims are often reluctant to come forward, whether its due to the trauma they've experienced, they knew the perpetrator, or simply because they did not realize they were a victim of a sexual crime in the first place.
The time frame that limits when a victim can come forward is seen as restrictive. In response, states have begun doing away with a statute of limitations for crimes of a sexual nature. New York state set the precedent and other states soon followed. Most recently, Illinois lifted the statute of limitations on numerous sex crimes including criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal assault, or aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The law went into effect on January 1, 2020.
If you have any questions or concerns about your case and laws on Statutes of Limitations, contact us. Our firm offers free no-obligation case consultations, and we would be happy to talk to you about the statute of limitations for your potential case.
Learn More About the Lawsuit Process:
“Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/) Code of Civil Procedure.” Illinois Compiled Statutes, Illinois General Assembly, www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2017&ChapterID=56&SeqStart=99900000&SeqEnd=103300000.
Folley, Aris. “Illinois Eliminates Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes.” TheHill, Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., A Subsidiary of News Communications, Inc., 27 July 2019, thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/455024-illinois-eliminates-statue-of-limitations-for-sex-crimes.
“Statute of Limitations.” The Free Dictionary, Farlex, legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/statute+of+limitations.
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