Illinois’ statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases

Doctors and surgeons in OR

Instances of medical malpractice occur every day in Illinois and across the United States. When the malpractice results in serious harm or premature death to patients, they or their family members may sue the individuals and institutions who are responsible for the incident in order to collect damages. However, many patients are unsure of their rights and responsibilities when it comes these lawsuits. In Illinois, the statute of limitations dictates when a person can rightfully seek a medical malpractice claim with the courts.

What is a statute of limitations?

Certain laws have been put in place to dictate how long a patient has to sue for malpractice after a doctor error or other injury event occurs. These laws are known as the statutes of limitations, and are common to most types of injury law. Those who do not file their claims within the required timeframe may be barred forever from filing their claim with the courts. This is true regardless of the validity of the case or any of its individual details or merits.

Basics of the statute of limitations in Illinois

The specific Illinois statute prohibits the filing of any lawsuits for medical malpractice after a period of two years from the date the plaintiff, or suing party, learned of the injury or death, should have learned of the injury or death, or received written notice of the injury or death. The claim must also be brought no more than four years after the cause of injury or death occurred, no matter when the claimant learned or should have learned of the injury.

For minors and the disabled, the limitations are different. If a minor patient is the victim of malpractice, their statute of limitations is extended to eight years, but suit may not be filed past their 22nd birthday.  The statute of limitations for those with a legal disability does not start to run until after the disability is removed, so in some cases, the statute of limitations does not begin to run at all.

Other laws affecting the statute of limitations

Some exceptions are allowed for in the law, but they are limited. If medical professionals fraudulently conceal malpractice, or if foreign objects are accidentally left in a patient in a surgical mistake, the statute of limitations does not apply.

In Illinois, plaintiffs are required to file certain documents with their initial claim in which the attorney states that he has met with medical experts regarding the case and the plaintiff’s claim has merit.  If this document is omitted, the statute of limitations will continue to run, possibly leading to the plaintiff losing any ability to successfully sue.

The statute of limitations is a crucial in the legal world. Due to the complex laws surrounding these matters, it is important for victims of medical malpractice to contact a Chicago personal injury attorney to discuss their case.