How Long After a Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

Being in a car crash is almost always a jolting experience that often has one asking questions: what happened? Is everyone okay? What do I do now? A car crash can happen to anyone at any time, so it is important to know your options when it comes to being compensated for damages or losses.  In the event that you are injured in a car accident, here are steps to take when submitting an injury claim in Illinois. 


Illinois Statute of Limitations on Car Accidents

A statute of limitations is a law that imposes strict time limits on your right to file a lawsuit in any given situation and can vary greatly depending on the offense and what type of legal proceeding is being initiated. Keep in mind that this applies to car accident lawsuits, not car insurance claims. Oftentimes, car accident victims settle with their insurance companies without consulting an attorney, presuming they have not been injured or a victim of gross negligence. 

Here are the statutes of limitations in Illinois for car accidents:

  • Personal injury lawsuits: 2 years
  • Property damage lawsuits: 5 years
  • Caps on Damages (Limits on compensation): None

In Illinois, plaintiffs seeking legal remedy for damages resulting in injury to an individual must commence legal proceedings within two years following the date of the accident. If an individual has suffered in any way physically, emotionally, or mentally it is important to  hire an attorney as soon as possible to get the process started. 

Illinois Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Wrongful death lawsuits in Illinois are governed by statute 740 ILCS 180/1, also known as the Wrongful Death Act. Like any other personal injury claim, there are strict time limitations for wrongful death cases. The statutes of limitations vary depending on the type of underlying cause of action and applicable law. Generally speaking, wrongful death actions must be commenced within two years of the date of death of an individual. In order to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the deceased person needs to have a personal representative to take the lead and pursue the charges. In Illinois, a personal representative can be:

  • the spouse of the deceased
  • the deceased’s adult child(ren)
  • parent or guardian, if the deceased is a minor

Be mindful that a wrongful death claim is different from a criminal case. A wrongful death claim seeks financial compensation and is a civil lawsuit; a criminal case is brought up by the state or federal government and seeks to punish the offender via jail time, probation, fines, or other penalties.

When Should I Claim Injury After a Car Accident?

In short: immediately. The sooner an attorney is hired, the better and more solid the case will be. It is crucial that key details and testimonies from witnesses and victims stay fresh and are gathered as soon as possible. 

In accidents where the damage is minor, some people would rather negotiate settlements out of pocket instead of filing an auto insurance claim because it often results in an auto insurance rate increase. If you are involved in a minor single-car accident where no one was hurt and only your own property was damaged, then you may not need to file a claim. 

What is Maximum Medical Improvement?

The ideal time to settle a claim is when the individual has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).

MMI is when a doctor determines the injured party has plateaued in terms of recovery. In other words, the individual has healed or improved as much as they are going to. It is advised to reach MMI before settling your claim, as you cannot predict the severity of your injury and/or what future medical treatment might be needed. 

Protect What Matters Most

Since 1997, Brian Lewis has been a dedicated personal injury lawyer serving Chicagoland. Throughout his years, he has achieved more than $100 million in settlements for clients. The Lewis Law firm is a nationally recognized personal injury law firm that concentrates on all types of injury cases, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and nursing home negligence. If you or anyone you know has suffered from a car accident injury, contact us today for a free consultation.

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196 E. Westminster Ave.

Lake Forest, IL 60045

Phone: 224.706.1112

Fax: 224.304.2297


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