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How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit? And What are Statute of Limitations?

By John Hipskind on September 22, 2015

It depends on the type of case.  Some claims may expire as soon as a year and other claims can be filed decades later.  “Statutes of limitations” refer to the limitations of time within which particular cases may be brought.  The purpose of statutes of limitations is to encourage claimants to investigate and pursue causes of action and discourage delay in bringing claims.  

A statute of limitation ordinarily starts to run upon the “accrual” of a cause of action.  A cause of action accrues when the liability is enforceable and an action action can be maintained against another party.  A cause of action has not accrued until a complete right exists that may be enforced by filing a case in court and obtaining issuance of process. 

In Illinois, the “discovery rule” is an exception to the general proposition that the statute begins to run when the cause of action accrues.  The Illinois Supreme Court has defined the discovery rule:

At some point the injured person becomes possessed of sufficient information concerning his injury and its cause to put a reasonable person on inquiry to determine whether action conduct is involved.  At that point, under the discovery rule, the running of the limitations periods . . .

In Illinois, courts follow the discovery rule in medical malpractice cases, meaning that the cause action accrues when the person learns of his or her injury or reasonably should have learned of it.

To give you an idea of how much variation there is depending on what the claims is, below are the statute of limitations for some actions within Illinois:

Assault and Battery, 2 years (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-202)

Contract (in writing), 10 years (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-206)

False Imprisonment, 2 years (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-202)

Fraud, 5 years (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-205)

Personal Injury, 2 years (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-202)

Product Liability, 2 years (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-213(d))

Property Damage, 5 years (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-205)

Arson, no time limit (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-5(a))

Burglary, 3 years (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-5(b))

Murder, no time limit (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-5(a))

Robbery, 3 years (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-5(b)

If you are considering filing a case, or have a case filed against you, it is important to know the relevant statute of limitations.  Please feel free to contact one of the experienced attorneys at Hipskind & McAninch, LLC, for a FREE consultation to discuss your case: 618-641-9189 (IL) | 314-312-2930 | info@hm-attorneys.com

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