A statute of limitations is a legal instrument that sets a time limit on how long a personal injury victim can take to bring a lawsuit against someone else. Personal injury may include bodily injury or emotional distress from a particular situation. In Ohio, if you miss the date for filing the suit, you could find yourself unable to recover compensation for your injuries. A personal injury claim has its own statute of limitations for filing a claim. However, there are particular situations where the statute may only apply after something has occurred. Product liability cases, for example, tend to have a specific clause triggering when the statute is calculated.
Importance of the Ohio Statute of Limitations
Why are these types of statutes so important? They could potentially be used to help criminals avoid prosecution, so why do they exist? The statute of limitations may apply to certain cases that impact an individual. The defining factor in the statute is that it sets something in place to allow for someone to change their ways in the future. Damages to personal property or a wrongful death claim are all governed under this personal injury statute. The statute of limitations will allow a person to file for damages within a certain time period in most cases.
What Time Limit Do Personal Injury Lawsuits Have in Ohio?
Generally, personal injury suits in Ohio only have a two-year time period after the incident has occurred, during which time the injured party can bring a suit against the defendant. The Ohio Revised Code section 2305.10 defines this statute of limitations and when it can be applied. A personal injury claim can be filed when someone else causes personal damages to you. In most cases, this claim needs to be filed within the limited time that the statute offers you. Keeping to the deadline gives you something to work with and a deadline to get your documents into the courts. However, this might not be possible in some cases, given the window.
What Happens When You Miss the Filing Window?
While you can still submit your legal action, it's very likely that the defendant will simply move for the claim to be dismissed. There are rare exceptions where extra time can be added to the window, but generally you're limited to two years. After two years are up, the state expects that the injury is no longer pressing. Additionally, this window may be crucial during a personal injury negotiation with an insurance company. If the statute of limitations has expired on a particular persona injury suit, the insurance company will likely hold that against the personal injury attorney.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
The period of time that a personal injury case can be filed for an offense might extend past the two-year window. This additional time is subject to certain criteria that need to be met. But what types of claims have an extended deadline, and why are those deadlines granted to those suits? There are several situations:
- If the person is of "unsound mind" when the offense was committed, or the person is a legal minor, the "clock" for the limit pauses. The "clock" resumes when the person is once again of sound mind, or if they get to their 18th birthday in the case of underaged plaintiffs.
- If the injury is caused by someone who absconds, leaves the state, or hides to escape the lawsuit, the "clock" pauses. The period of concealment won't count towards the limit on time that personal injury lawyers have for filing the suit.
- Defective products or a medical malpractice claim may extend deadlines based on when the problem was discovered. In these cases, the suit can be brought against the defendant after the time of discovery. However, as mentioned below, there are some stipulations about the time of discovery that the circumstances need to fulfill.
Medical Device and Medical Malpractice Claims and Limits
While there is a general two-year statute for personal injury, malpractice claims only have a one-year period for filing claims. A malpractice claim is different from a medical device claim. Cases involving medical devices don't fall under this stipulation and still have a two-year period for filing. However, there may be exceptions based on certain rules. The two-year statute of limitations applies to everything across the realm of personal injury once another rule or law doesn't contradict it.
Defective Products and the Two-Year Statute
A product liability claim is another realm where the two years depend on other mitigating factors. There are three situations where defective products may fall outside the statute's defined limits. These are:
- If you discovered a potential injury up to eight years after acquiring the product, then you may be liable to file a personal injury action within two years. This discovery rule can determine if you have a viable case to apply for.
- If there is a 10+ year warranty on the product that has not expired, you may file for bodily injury within the period specified. Again, the discovery rule can help you to get compensation after the time of discovery. The 10-year statute remains in effect.
- If the manufacturer is found guilty of fraud contributing to the injury, you aren't limited by any statute. The 10-year statute does not apply here.
These situations may provide the best redress for someone who needs compensation for their bodily injury. However, it's necessary to realize that there is a hard time limit for filing these claims that you should not ignore.
Absolute Defenses to Liability
What happens if an exception occurs and the issue comes up in court after many years? Ohio provides a statute of repose which serves as an absolute defense to liability. The statute of repose defines a fixed time period after which any case against the defendant is time-barred. Statues of repose can be passed for many different types of lawsuits. However, it's most common to encounter a statute of repose in a product liability suit. An injured person cannot bring a suit against the at-fault party if it goes beyond a certain time range. In Ohio, the statute of repose for a bodily injury from a defective product is ten years.
What Compensation Could a Person Get from a Personal Injury Suit?
If you manage to file your lawsuit within the time frame, you might be offered an insurance settlement from the liable party to deal with the issues arising from the injury. If the settlement is too low, you may need to go to court. The court may grant punitive damages to make an example of the guilty party. Property damage costs might also be granted to the injured person based on the percentage of fault that the defendant is responsible for. Occasionally, the court might grant compensation if the person cannot work over a period of time. Auto accident victims, for example, might be able to get a settlement that deals with their inability to work while they recover from their injuries. The defendant may also be required to cover their medical bills and other expenses. Other non-economic damages might also be leveraged against the guilty party for their actions.
If you're planning to be involved in a personal injury suit and are considering professional representation, it's a good idea to contact a qualified attorney.