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Understanding Statutes of Limitations

Posted on in Personal Injury

statutes of limitations, Illinois personal injury attorney, McHenry County personal injury attorney, civil claims, personal injury claim, file a claim, Illinois law, legal claimsCivil courts are in place to provide a way for private citizens to seek justice for wrongs done to them and to solve disputes between each other. However, this goal of attempting to provide justice for injured parties is also tempered by the practical issues of the legal system. State legislatures have imposed statutes of limitations on various civil claims which may be brought up by citizens. These statutes are the time limits that a person must file the claim by or he or she will have lost the right to do so.

How Statutes of Limitations Work

Statutes of limitations set the period of time in which a person may file a claim. The time limit varies based on the type of claim, as well as specific circumstances. For instance, an ordinary personal injury case has a two-year statute of limitations under Illinois law, and that time limit starts to run once the injury occurs. Conversely, injuries arising from medical malpractice have a two-year time limit that begins at the discovery of the injury. Additionally, a separate four-year time limit starts once the injury occurs regardless of discovery. If the medical malpractice injury involves a minor, then he or she has an eight-year time limit from the date of the injury. However, the statute automatically runs out on his or her 22nd birthday.

These are just some examples of the complexities associated with statutes of limitations that make it important for people with legal claims to file their lawsuits as quickly as possible.

The Theory behind Statutes of Limitations

At first, these statutes may seem unfair, or unduly harsh to injured plaintiffs. After all, it seems like a person should still have a right to seek justice even if his or her injuries occurred more than two years ago. However, the statutes exist for two reasons. The first reason is practical and the second philosophical.

The practical reason is that evidence decays over time. Courts have to reconstruct what happened in the case based on documents and testimony by witnesses. As time passes, documents can be lost or destroyed and witnesses' memories fade.

The philosophical reason is based on defendants' rights. While defendants should be held accountable for their actions, legislatures have determined that they need not live with the possibility of a lawsuit hanging over their heads for decades. A person who breaches a contract as a 19-year-old should not have to defend themselves when they are 59.

If you have recently been injured and want to seek justice before your statute of limitations runs out, contact a McHenry County personal injury attorney today. We can help you better understand your rights and your options.

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