There are many intricate procedural rules and steps to follow when initiating a personal injury lawsuit. Making a mistake and/or failing to file the requisite papers within the established time frame can result in the preclusion of a claim for recovery. In a recent case, the plaintiff was ultimately precluded from bringing an action for personal injuries she suffered from an automobile accident, for failure to follow the necessary steps in a timely fashion. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. It is critical that you contact a local Chicago personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident occurs to protect your right to a recovery.
In 2008, Sandra Relf and Joseph Grand Pre, Jr. were in an automobile accident. Shortly after the incident, Mr. Grand Pre, Jr. died. Under the terms of his will, his son was issued letters of office to act as independent administrator of his estate. Under Illinois procedural law, the statute of limitations period within which to bring a claim for personal injuries is two years. Just prior to the expiration of the limitations period, Relf brought an action against Grand Pre, Jr. in a Cook County circuit court to recover damages for injuries she sustained in the car accident. She claims that she did not know he had passed away. Because he had died, her claim was invalid.
After attempting to serve process of the action on the deceased, Relf learned that he had died. The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure provides a two-year extension of the limitations period mentioned above — under certain circumstances. For instance, Section 13-209 allows for the extension in cases where a plaintiff must substitute a decedent’s personal representative for the defendant. Here, instead of substituting a personal representative, Relf requested and was granted permission by the circuit court to have an employee in her own attorney’s office appointed as “special administrator” to defend Grand Pre, Jr.’s estate against her claims. Under established principles of statutory construction, this procedure was not authorized under the law.
While the circuit court dismissed the action, citing statutory limitations, the appellate court reversed, deciding to the contrary. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court and held that by substituting her lawyer’s employee as “special administrator” in place of Grand Pre, Jr., after the limitations period expired “did not operate to preserve her otherwise invalid cause of action against him [by virtue of his death.” Relf was required to initiate the action against the executor of the estate, the proper “personal representative” in this matter. The court pointed out that Relf had sufficient time to “exercise that option, but did not.”
As one can see from this case, there are many legal procedures to be aware of and to adhere to in any personal injury action. One of the most important issues can be the time frame within which you may file a lawsuit. If you have been injured by the negligence of another, you are encouraged to contact a local personal injury attorney as soon as possible.