What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Ohio?

The statute of limitations sets a strict time limit on your right to file a personal injury lawsuit in Ohio; miss the filing deadline, and your right to compensation for your injuries is almost certainly lost.

Whether your injuries stem from a slip and fall, a traffic accident, or any other incident where someone else's conduct caused you harm, you might be thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Ohio's civil courts. If so, it's crucial to comply with the statute of limitations for these types of cases. (For those who may not be fluent in "legalese," a statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in court.)

In this article, we'll cover the details of Ohio's personal injury statute of limitations, explain why the deadline is so important, and summarize a few instances when the filing period might be extended.

Two Years is the Standard Time Limit for Ohio Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio personal injury statute of limitations is spelled out at Ohio Revised Code section 2305.10, which says any lawsuit seeking a legal remedy for "injury to the person" must be filed within two years.

So if, after another person's careless or intentional act causes you injury, you want to ask Ohio's courts for a civil remedy (damages) for your losses, you have two years to get the initial documentation (the "complaint" and other required paperwork) filed in court.

When does the two-year "clock" start ticking? Section 2305.10 says it's "when the injury or loss to person or property occurs," which means the date of the underlying accident.

Ohio's two-year deadline applies to almost all conceivable types of personal injury lawsuits, whether the case is driven by the liability principle of "negligence" (which applies to most accidents) or intentional tort (which applies to civil assault and battery and other purposeful conduct).

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?

If more than two years have passed since the underlying accident, but you try to file your personal injury lawsuit anyway, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly file a "motion to dismiss" and point this fact out to the court. And unless a rare exception entitles you to extra time (more details on these exceptions later), the court will summarily dismiss your case. Once that happens, you’ve lost your right to ask a court to award you damages for your injuries, no matter how significant they might be, and no matter how obvious the defendant’s liability.

Ohio's personal injury statute of limitations is obviously critical if you want to take your injury case to court via a formal lawsuit, but the filing deadline set by this law is also pivotal to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and his or her insurance company. If the other side knows that the two-year deadline has passed, you'll have lost all your negotiating leverage, making "I'll see you in court" the very definition of an empty threat.

Exceptions to the Ohio Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

Ohio has identified a number of different scenarios that might delay the running of the statute of limitations "clock," or pause the clock after it has started to run, effectively extending the two-year filing deadline. Here are some examples of circumstances that are likely to modify the standard timeline:

  • If the injured person is considered to be under a legal disability at the time of the underlying accident -- meaning he or she is a minor under the age of 18, or is deemed "of unsound mind" according to Ohio law -- then the two-year "clock" for filing the personal injury lawsuit probably won't begin to run until the legal disability is "lifted", meaning the person turns 18, or is deemed sane or competent. (Ohio Revised Code section 2305.16.)
  • If, at some point after the underlying accident, and before the lawsuit can be filed, the person who allegedly caused the plaintiff's injuries (the defendant) "departs from the state" or absconds, or conceals" him or herself within the state of Ohio, the period of absence or concealment likely won't be counted as part of the two-year filing period. (Ohio Revised Code section 2305.15.)
  • If your Ohio personal injury lawsuit stems from injuries caused by a defective product, a special filing timeline may apply to your case, especially if consumer fraud or a product warranty is involved.

If you have questions about how the Ohio statute of limitations applies to your personal injury case -- especially if the deadline is fast-approaching or has already passed -- it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney.

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