Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Fatal Car Accident Complaint Based on Statute of Limitations

Clock on GrassThere is nothing more devastating than losing a loved one in a fatal auto accident. As compassionate and experienced Chicago car accident lawyers, we have seen numerous wrongful death actions arising from another individual’s carelessness. One of the most common ways that these accidents take place is motor vehicle collisions. A recent Illinois appellate opinion discusses liability in a fatal car crash, along with the importance of filing the action within the statute of limitations.

The plaintiff’s brother was killed while walking in a crosswalk when he was struck by a tow truck. The decedent’s brother contacted an attorney to bring a civil claim against the defendant. The attorney filed this lawsuit exactly two years and a day after the date of the accident. The case went through a number of other procedural issues, including a dismissal for lack of prosecution. The new attorney filed a petition for relief from the judgment based on a variety of grounds, including evidence that the prior attorney suffered a stroke while representing the plaintiff and was unable to practice law. The parties disputed whether the plaintiff actively prosecuted the claim, and the defendant argued that the claim was filed after the statute of limitations, rendering it time-barred.

The plaintiff countered the statute of limitations argument by saying that the plaintiff died the day after the accident as a result of his injuries and that the plaintiff was legally disabled from the moment of the accident until the moment he died, effectively tolling the statute of limitations. The plaintiff also wanted to add a claim for wrongful death, which had not been pled in the original complaint.

The trial court ultimately rejected the plaintiff’s assertion that the decedent was legally disabled and the argument that the statute of limitations was tolled until the moment the decedent died. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s request to add the wrongful death claim, finding that it did not sufficiently relate back to the original complaint’s allegations. The plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff failed to file his complaint within the two-year statute of limitations. The court relied on Illinois’ statute of limitations provisions in reaching this conclusion and rejecting the plaintiff’s argument as attempting to use two tolling statutes simultaneously in violation of the statute. As a result, the plaintiff’s attempt to amend the complaint failed because the original complaint was invalid. The court also noted how the plaintiff let nearly a year pass from the time the case was dismissed for lack of prosecution until the time he attempted to file a new claim. As a result, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

If you have lost a loved one as a result of a fatal car accident, we understand what you are suffering through during this devastating time. Our seasoned team of car accident lawyers can compassionately guide you through the legal process, ensuring that you understand the full scope of your rights. To schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can assist you, contact us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.

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