What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Ohio?

Ohio's personal injury statutes of limitations, when you might get more time to file your case, and what happens to your claim if you miss the deadline.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

A "statute of limitations" is a law that puts a deadline on your time to file a lawsuit in court. Miss the filing deadline and chances are you've lost the right to sue. Stated a bit differently, a statute of limitations is a claim killer. That's its one and only job, and it does that job very effectively.

Ohio has several statutes of limitations for different kinds of personal injury lawsuits. Starting with the state's two-year general rule, we'll review those you're most likely to encounter. There might be circumstances when letting the statute of limitations run is unfair. Ohio law sometimes gives you longer to file in those situations. We'll look at a few of the most common examples.

Finally, we close with what you should do if you're worried that the statute of limitations for your claim is about to run out—and what happens if it does.

Ohio's General Rule: Two Years From the Date You're Injured

Most Ohio personal injury lawsuits fall under the general rule of Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.10(A) (2024). You have two years to file your case in court. The two-year clock usually starts running on the date you're injured. It might start later in some cases when you're harmed by a dangerous product or a chemical. Ask your lawyer for details.

What lawsuits are covered by this general rule? Here's a partial listing of the most common kinds:

Other Ohio Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations

Ohio's two-year general rule covers most, but not all, personal injury claims. Here are several other statutes of limitations that apply to specific kinds of lawsuits.

Intentional Torts

Personal injuries typically are caused by negligence, which is legalese for carelessness. Of course, intentional wrongdoing—what the law calls an "intentional tort"—can also cause harm. Ohio has two statutes of limitations covering the most common intentional torts.

Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.111(B) (2024) allows you one year to sue for assault or battery. Most often, the limitation clock starts on the date you were injured. But if you didn't know who caused your injury when it happened, the clock runs from the earlier of:

  • the date you discover the your assailant's identity, or
  • the date you should have discovered the assailant's identity, had you investigated with reasonable diligence.

Under Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.11(A) (2024), you have one year from the date you were injured to file suit for:

Medical Malpractice

Lots of special rules apply to Ohio medical malpractice lawsuits. One of them is the statute of limitations. You've got one year, generally from the date of your malpractice-related injury, to file a lawsuit.

In some cases, though, you might get more time. When you don't discover your injury right away, the one-year limitation period starts on the earlier of the date you discover or should have discovered the malpractice. (See Oliver v. Kaiser Cmty. Health Found., 5 Ohio St. 3d 111, 117-18 (1983).) Speak to an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer to see if this "discovery rule" (also discussed below) applies to your case.

Regardless of when (or if) you discover your injury, the latest you can sue is four years from the date of the malpractice.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.113 (2024).)

Wrongful Death

When personal injuries cause death, the law calls it a "wrongful death" case. The victim's estate, acting on behalf of the surviving relatives, might decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The filing deadline is two years from the date of death. (Ohio Rev. Code § 2125.02(F)(1) (2024).)

Different rules might apply when death is caused by a dangerous or defective product. (See Ohio Rev. Code § 2125.02(F)(2) (2024).) You'll need to consult with Ohio legal counsel for advice specific to your facts.

Can Ohio's Personal Injury Filing Deadline Be Extended?

In some situations, yes, Ohio law allows you more time. Keep in mind that the defendant (the party you're suing) doesn't want you to have longer to sue. Expect them to object if you claim that one of the extensions we discuss here applies to your case.

The Discovery Rule

We mentioned the discovery rule above, in connection with intentional torts and medical malpractice cases. Ohio courts have applied it to other kinds of lawsuits, too. When the rule applies, it postpones the running of the statute of limitations until the earlier of:

  • the date you discover your injury and its likely cause, or
  • the date you should have discovered your injury and its likely cause.

(See Burgess v. Eli Lilly & Co., 66 Ohio St. 3d 59, 60-61 (1993).)

Now for the bad news. The discovery rule doesn't apply to all personal injury cases. It'll be up to you to convince the court that it applies in your case. Ohio courts are reluctant to extend lawsuit filing deadlines.

Before you rely on the discovery rule, get advice from an Ohio personal injury lawyer. Better yet, hire a lawyer to represent you and make your arguments to the court.

Injured Person Is Legally Disabled

Those who are legally disabled typically can't manage their own legal affairs by, for example, filing a lawsuit. As a result, the law often gives them more time to sue. For purposes of Ohio's statutes of limitations, Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.16 (2024) considers minors (younger than 18 years) and persons of "unsound mind" to be legally disabled.

When a legally disabled person suffers a personal injury, the statute of limitations doesn't start until the disability is removed. A minor's legal disability is removed on the earlier of the date the minor turns 18 or is declared emancipated. For a person of unsound mind, the disability is removed when they're found to be mentally competent.

If a person who's suffered an injury later is declared to be of unsound mind, the statute of limitations is "tolled" (paused) until competence is restored.

Defendant Leaves Ohio or Goes Into Hiding

In some situations, when the defendant leaves Ohio or goes into hiding in the state, the statute of limitations might not run. (Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.15(A) (2024).) But relying on this extension can be risky. Here's why.

In Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Ents., Inc., 486 U.S. 888 (1988), the United States Supreme Court declared this statute unconstitutional when applied to non-Ohio corporations. A lower court found it unconstitutional as to out-of-state individuals in some circumstances, too.

Depending on the facts of your case, you might be able to use this extension. But you'll need to speak to an Ohio lawyer for advice specific to your case.

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?

Think the statute of limitations for your claim has expired, or is about to run out very soon? Don't panic. Get in touch with an Ohio personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible. At a minimum, here's what you need to know.

  • What's the statute of limitations for my claim?
  • Has the filing deadline run out, or is it about to expire?
  • If the deadline has passed (or is about to), is there a way to argue for an extension?

Keep in mind that lawyers are trained to deal with problems like this. They make a living by favorably arguing the facts of their client's case. If the facts suggest a good faith argument for an extension of the limitation period, your lawyer will make that argument for you. It might be a longshot, but a slim chance is better than none at all.

If the statute of limitations has expired and no extension can be had, then your legal claim is dead. Nothing you do will bring it back to life. File a lawsuit and the court will dismiss it as untimely. Worse yet, the court might "sanction" (penalize) you for filing a frivolous case.

You'll have no better luck trying to negotiate a settlement of your claim—because you no longer have a claim. Ohio law has killed it. You can't credibly threaten a lawsuit, so the defendant won't take you seriously. You've lost the right to seek compensation for your injuries, no matter how serious, permanent, or disabling they might be.

Get Help With Your Statute of Limitations Problem

Statutes of limitations are among the most complicated of all laws. Trying to navigate Ohio's filing deadlines on your own is a bit like trying to cross a busy highway while blindfolded. One wrong move can lead to disaster, and you probably won't find out you've made a mistake until it's too late.

An Ohio personal injury attorney knows the statutes of limitations and how they apply to your lawsuit. Don't take a chance with your legal claim. When you're ready to move forward, here's how to find a lawyer near you.

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