In Ohio, if you are considering making a personal injury claim, it’s crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential lawsuit. A little background, for those unfamiliar with the term: A “statute of limitations” is just a law that puts a strict time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in the state's civil court system. There are usually different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.
The relevant statute of limitations for Ohio personal injury plaintiffs can be found at Ohio Revised Code section 2305.10, which says “an action for bodily injury or injuring personal property shall be brought within two years after the cause of action accrues” (emphasis added).
In plain English, that means whether we’re talking about a car accident, slip and fall, an assault or any other kind of mishap or intentional action, if someone else caused you any kind of injury, you have two years to get any civil lawsuit filed against them, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the underlying incident. (Learn more about How and When to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit.)
Even if you don’t think you’re going to file a personal injury lawsuit -- maybe you’re well into the insurance settlement process -- it's still important to keep the statute of limitations in mind. You always want to make sure you have the option of taking your case to court. Lose that option, and you lose your negotiating leverage during injury settlement talks. (Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling an Injury Claim.)
What happens if you don't get your personal injury lawsuit started before Ohio’s two-year window closes? In that situation, you can bet that the person you are trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss your lawsuit, and unless some exception applies to extend the deadline (more on these below) the court will grant the request. If that happens, you’re left with no way to hold the other party responsible for your injuries and other losses.
Exceptions to the Running of the Statute of Limitations “Clock” in Ohio
There are some rare instances where the running of the two-year “clock” can be paused or “tolled” in Ohio, meaning that the filing deadline is extended.
One of the most common of these exceptions is codified at Ohio Revised Code section 2305.16, which in the context of a personal injury lawsuit says that if the injured person “is, at the time the cause of action accrues, within the age of minority or of unsound mind, the person may bring it within the respective times limited by those sections, after the disability is removed” -- meaning within the ensuing two years after he or she turns 18 or is declared mentally sound.
Also, under Ohio Revised Code section 2305.15, the potential defendant’s absence from the state of Ohio, or his or her concealment within the state, may suspend the running of the statute of limitations period.
Finally, if your lawsuit is over injuries caused by a defective or dangerous product, there may be a special filing timeline for your case under Ohio law, especially if fraud or some kind of product warranty played a part.
Those are just a few examples. If you have specific questions about extending the statute of limitations deadline, or about the lawsuit process in general, speak to a knowledgeable Ohio personal injury lawyer.