Statute of repose vs. statute of limitations: What you need to know

Undertaking a legal action such as a civil lawsuit can be confusing and intimidating. There are many terms, statutes, and requirements that must be followed if your case is to be successful. Two of particular importance are the statute of repose and the statute of limitations.

Each one relates to when you may bring a lawsuit against another party, but there are big differences between each in regards to their activation and how long they apply. If you are ready to file a case but are unsure of the deadlines that will affect your case, you need experienced guidance from a Chicago personal injury attorney.

statute of repose vs statute of limitations


What is a statute of limitations?

In the state of Illinois, the statute of limitations refers to the time limit within which a legal action must be initiated for various types of civil claims. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that legal disputes are resolved promptly and to protect defendants from the potential burden of defending against stale claims.

The statute of limitations in Illinois can vary depending on the type of claim. Here are some common examples.

Personal Injury

In Illinois, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including those arising from car accidents or slip and fall incidents, is generally two years from the date of the injury.

Medical Malpractice

For medical malpractice claims in Illinois, the statute of limitations is typically two years from the date the patient knew or reasonably should have known about the injury or the date of the last treatment by the healthcare provider involved, whichever occurs later. However, there is an overall maximum limit of four years from the date of the alleged negligence, regardless of when the injury was discovered.

Wrongful Death

In wrongful death cases, where a person’s death is caused by the negligent or intentional act of another, the statute of limitations in Illinois is generally two years from the date of death.

Workers’ Compensation

For workers’ compensation claims in Illinois, the statute of limitation is generally three years from the date of the work-related injury or the last date of payment of workers’ compensation benefits, whichever is later. This means that an injured worker has three years from the date of the injury or the last benefit payment to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Cases against the state of Illinois and its agencies

The statute of limitations for cases against state agencies (e.g., Illinois Department of Transportation) and cases against local government entities (e.g., the city of Chicago, CTA, etc.) is one year.

It’s important to note that there may be exceptions or variations to the statute of limitations based on specific circumstances, such as cases involving minors, cases against government entities, or claims with different time limits specified by specific statutes. If you have any questions about the SOL for a potential claim during intake, you should contact an attorney with the case details immediately.

What is a statute of repose?

The statute of repose is unfamiliar to most people who aren’t practicing attorneys. It can stop a lawsuit before it begins since this statute can be triggered before you experience injury. For example, suppose a car manufacturer produced faulty vehicles 15 years ago, which were recalled and repaired. However, if you are involved in a car accident with someone who never repaired their car, the statute of repose may negate your personal injury lawsuit.

In Illinois, the statute of repose is four years from the date of a personal injury. For medical malpractice claims, the four years still applies even if the patient did not discover the injury or issue until after that time.

What’s the difference between the statute of limitations and the statute of repose?

When it comes to the statute of limitation vs. the statute of repose, the primary difference is when the clock for filing a legal action begins. The statute of limitations is triggered by the plaintiff’s injury, whereas the statute of repose can begin well before the victim is harmed.

Repose often has nothing to do with a specific injury. It is meant to keep the courts clear of unnecessary legal actions that could take years to settle when evidence of negligence is sparse. It also pushes plaintiffs to act more quickly to pursue their claims so they can secure compensation promptly.

Both statutes are intended to protect both defendants and plaintiffs. If a long period passes before lawsuits are filed, evidence may degrade or disappear. Witnesses’ memories may fade, and the chance of presenting accurate arguments by either side is significantly affected.

Potential exceptions to the statute of limitations and the statute of repose

Generally, the statute of limitations can be tolled (or delayed) in situations such as:

  • If the plaintiff has suffered some mental incapacity before the injury
  • If the plaintiff is a minor child
  • If there is a pending case against the defendant, such as for criminal charges

While it is usually less likely for the statute of repose to be tolled, these conditions can also play a part in altering the deadline for repose. A skilled personal injury lawyer can advise you on how these statutes apply specifically to your case. They will interpret the law to your best advantage and identify all those responsible for your injuries.

Don’t let unexpected legal statutes derail your personal injury case

While you may not look forward to the process of pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, you must educate yourself about any obstacles that could prevent justice. Learning how the statute of repose and the statute of limitations will impact your case is crucial to achieving the best possible outcome.

Instead of risking your financial compensation from the at-fault parties by going it alone, schedule a free consultation with a qualified personal injury attorney in Chicago. Our skilled legal advocates will assess your case and discuss any potential concerns. We will then help you create the most robust approach for demonstrating liability by those responsible.

Contact us at (800) 985-1819 or online for your free case evaluation today.

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