Illinois Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
Get an overview of the laws governing personal injury lawsuits in Illinois.
Illinois has several key state-level laws that relate to personal injury cases, and we'll provide a snapshot of those laws in this article. These rules apply when you're filing a lawsuit in court, and they may come into play when you're working out an injury settlement with an insurance company.
Time Limits on Filing an Illinois Injury Lawsuit
Illinois sets a time limit of two years on filing a personal injury lawsuit in the state's civil court system. This two-year time limit, known as a "statute of limitations," begins to run on the date of the accident in most cases. Sometimes, however, a statute of limitations might run from the date you discovered you were injured, rather than the date of the event that injured you. This later date is known as a "discovery date."
For injury claims against a city or county, you have one year to file a lawsuit. The time limit to sue the state is two years, but you must file a formal claim within one year in order to sue. See: Injury Claims Against The Government
Comparative Fault in Illinois Injury Cases
Comparative fault rules seek to sort out damages when more than one party is responsible, or "at fault," for an injury. It's not unusual to hear the other party in an injury claim allege that you were partly or totally at fault for your injuries. When this is actually the case, Illinois courts apply the state's "modified comparative fault" rule to calculate the damages you can receive.
The Illinois comparative fault rule works like this: suppose you're shopping in a grocery store one day. You're walking down an aisle, reading a product label instead of watching where you are going. You don't see a broken floor tile in your path and you trip on it, falling and suffering injury. Eventually, it's determined that the store was 90 percent at fault for the accident, and you were 10 percent at fault.
Illinois's comparative fault rule will apply in this situation to reduce your damages by 10 percent, the amount of fault that was assigned to you. So, if your total damages are $100,000, the rule will apply to subtract $10,000, representing the 10 percent of fault assigned to you, and leave you with $90,000. If you are found to be 50 percent at fault or more, however, your damages award automatically drops to zero, and the court will not allow you to collect from any other at-fault party.
Illinois courts are required to apply the state's comparative fault rule. However, don't be surprised if the rule also comes up during insurance settlement negotiations.
Auto Insurance Laws in Illinois
Illinois, like many states, uses a "fault" system to handle car accidents. In a fault system, an injured person has the option of going to court to prove fault, seeking compensation from his or her own insurer, or seeking compensation from another driver's insurer directly (known as a third-party claim). Many injured people choose to start with an insurance claim, reserving the option to go to court if insurance settlement negotiations don't work out.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Illinois however, a specific statute (510 Ill. Comp. Stat., § 5/16) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.
Damage Caps on Illinois Injury Claims
The purpose of damage caps in personal injury cases is to limit the amount and/or types of compensation an injured plaintiff can receive. Different states handle damage caps differently. Some cap damages only in certain types of cases, like medical malpractice. Others cap only certain types of damages, like non-economic or "pain and suffering" damages.
In 2010, Illinois's damage cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases was struck down for violating the state's constitution. Currently, Illinois does not cap damages in any kind of personal injury case.