Illinois Medical Malpractice: Statute of Limitations
You went in for a simple outpatient procedure in the middle of the sweltering Illinois summer. Now you're watching the snow fall and ringing in the holidays from your hospital bed -- your home away from home for the past four months. Where did it all go wrong? You're not sure, but between the outpatient procedure, your frantic transfer to the ICU, and your painfully slow recovery, you're certain someone was at fault for something.
Do you wait and see how your recovery proceeds before looking into a malpractice case? Or should you look into it right away? Read on to learn about the role the statute of limitations plays in filing malpractice claims in Illinois.
The Statute of Limitations
If you believe you or a family member was injured, or worse, a family member died, as a result of medical malpractice, it is important that you check into the situation sooner, rather than later. This is important because the law imposes a time limit on how long an individual has to pursue a legal claim. This time limit is called the "statute of limitations." Illinois law places these limitations on most types of cases, including medical malpractice claims. If you do not file your claim within the statute of limitations, you may be forever barred from bringing your claim -- even if you have a valid case.
Courts in different states have different views on when exactly the clock starts running on the statute of limitations deadline to file medical malpractice cases. These differences reflect the various ways in which courts try to balance protecting the injured parties versus allowing medical providers to effectively defend themselves while records and witnesses to the case are still available. Some ways courts determine when to start the clock on the filing deadline include, from the time:
- When the act (or lack of action) constituting malpractice occurred;
- When the act (or lack of action) results in injury;
- When the plaintiff discovered, or should have discovered, he or she was injured; and
- When the plaintiff's treatment concluded.
Statute of Limitations in Illinois
In Illinois, a medical malpractice lawsuit must generally be filed within two years of the date that the victim discovered, or should have discovered his or her injury. However, all medical malpractice actions must be brought no later than four years from the date on which the medical malpractice occurred -- even if the victim was not aware of the malpractice until more than four years later. If the victim is a minor, the statute of limitations is generally longer.
Keep in mind, however, that the statute of limitations may not be a problem if you were in some way prevented from asserting your rights. So, while in theory, a court only looks at whether you filed your claim within the required time period, in actuality many other factors may come into play in your case. Some of these factors may include: your age, any fraud on the part of the defendant, or the existence of a disability that prevented you from filing a timely claim.
If you are interested in more general information, feel free to check out FindLaw's section on medical malpractice.
However, since some specific situations involving medical malpractice have different statutes of limitations from those described above, it is generally a good idea to look into filing your claim sooner rather than later. An experienced attorney may be able to help you answer any questions you have about the statute of limitations, as it applies to your case, as well as determine potential next steps.