There are a lot of standard questions that go through an attorney’s head any time a potential client contacts them. First and foremost usually is how long do I have to file a lawsuit.
With the disclaimer that I don’t want you take any of this as legal advice, and that if you have any questions about it you can fill out our contact form or call me at 312-346-5320 for free, it’s important to know the statute of limitations in Illinois wrongful death cases and the many exceptions to that. If you have any questions call us at no cost at any time.
Generally speaking under Illinois law you have two years from the date someone dies to sue for negligence. So if you are in a car accident on June 1, 2019 and die from that, your family has until June 1, 2021 to file a lawsuit for that. If you don’t feel emotionally up for it or didn’t know you could sue that doesn’t delay the time limit. But what are the exceptions?
The most minor would be if the two year date falls on a day in which the court is not open such as a weekend or holiday. In that case the time limit would extend until the next date the court is in fact open for you to file a case. Why anyone would wait until the last second to file is a mystery, but it happens.
Another exception has to do with if the person who is entitled to bring a lawsuit is under the age of 18 when their loved one passes, they can bring the lawsuit any time prior to their 20th birthday.
If you are suing a city or county, your time limit to sue is one year from the date of the death. So if you were suing the City of Chicago police officer for wrongful death you likely have to act faster than normal.
A final large exception has to do with criminal acts. Because courts don’t like to bring civil cases while a criminal case is pending and because you sometimes don’t have proof of wrongful death until after a criminal case is done, the time limits to sue are extended up to five years after the date of death against defendants charged with intentional violent crime (murder, manslaughter and drug induced homicides) or one year after the end of a criminal case. Note that this only extends the statute against the person who committed the crime, not against anyone else.
There are other exceptions as well. Bottom line is that the sooner you act with a competent attorney in your corner, the less likely you are to lose your chance for justice over a technicality. If you would like a recommendation to an experienced wrongful death lawyer with a track record of success, call us any time to speak with an attorney.