What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Oklahoma?

Find out about the filing deadline for your Oklahoma personal injury case, when the deadline might be extended, and what happens when the limitation period runs out.

By , Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

Suppose you were injured in Oklahoma, and you want to file a personal injury (PI) lawsuit to collect compensation ("damages" in legalese) for your injuries. How much time do you have to file your case in court under Oklahoma law? We'll fill you in on the basics.

We start with Oklahoma's two-year general rule. From there, we'll look at other deadlines that apply in specific cases. We'll also look at some situation when Oklahoma law extends the limitation period, giving you a bit more time to file. We close with what happens if the statute of limitations runs out before you file a lawsuit. Spoiler alert: Nothing good.

Oklahoma's Generally Applicable PI Filing Deadline: Two Years

As a general rule, you have two years to file your personal injury lawsuit in court. (Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 95(A)(3) (2024).) The two-year clock usually starts running on the date you're injured. In some situations, the clock might start running later or it might pause for some period.

This deadline applies to cases involving:

While this is the generally applicable statute of limitations in personal injury cases, don't simply assume that it applies anytime personal injuries are involved. There might be a more specific statute tailored to your case. For example, when personal injuries result in death, Oklahoma's wrongful death statute of limitations—not the general personal injury statute of limitations—will apply.

Other Personal Injury Statutes of Limitations

Oklahoma has a number of other filing deadlines that apply in specific cases. If one of these other statutes of limitations covers cases like yours, that's the rule you must apply. Here are some common examples.

Intentional Injuries

When another person intentionally harms you, the lawsuit deadline is one year from the date you're injured. (Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 95(A)(4) (2024).) This limitation period applies to injuries caused by:

Medical Malpractice

The deadline to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is two years from the earlier of the date that a malpractice-related injury or death:

  • was actually discovered, or
  • with reasonable diligence, should have been discovered.

The deadline might be extended (see below) when the injured person is mentally "incompetent" or younger than 18 years old.

(Okla. Stat. tit. 76, § 18 (2024).)

(Learn more about Oklahoma's medical malpractice laws.)

Wrongful Death

Personal injuries sometimes cause death. When that happens, the victim's estate might decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If so, the suit must be filed within two years. The limitation period usually starts on the date of death. (Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 1053(A) (2024).)

Suing the Government

Special rules apply when you want to file a lawsuit against the government for causing your injuries. If you don't follow these rules, you won't be allowed to sue.

Notice of your claim. Within one year of the date you're injured, you must give the government written notice of your claim. When you plan to sue Oklahoma, notify the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, Risk Management Department. If your claim is against a political subdivision of the state—a city or county, for example—you'll notify the governing body's clerk. (Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 156 (2024).) Your notice should include all the information required by Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 156(E) (2024).

Filing a lawsuit. You can't sue the government unless it denies your claim, completely or partially. If the government doesn't act on your claim within 90 days after you file your notice, it's treated as denied. (Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 157(A) (2024).) Once your claim is denied, you have just 180 days to sue. (Okla. Stat. tit. 51, § 157(B) (2024).)

Can the Filing Deadline Be Extended?

Sometimes, yes, Oklahoma law extends the filing deadlines. Keep in mind that these extensions are the exception, not the rule. If you intend to rely on an extension for more time, expect the other side to challenge you. Should you find yourself in this situation, you'll want to be represented by experienced legal counsel.

Oklahoma's Discovery Rule

Generally speaking, your time to file a personal injury lawsuit begins on the date you're injured. But what happens if you don't know you've been injured when the injury happens? Sound far fetched? Here's an example.

Suppose you have surgery. The surgeon carelessly leaves a surgical instrument inside you. For the next three years, you're completely unaware of what's happened. Then you start to experience abdominal pain. Your family doctor orders an X-ray, and you discover the surgeon's mistake. It wouldn't be fair to penalize you by denying you the opportunity to seek compensation for your injury. That's why Oklahoma's medical malpractice statute of limitations—discussed above—says that the filing deadline starts running on the date you discovered (or should have discovered) your injury.

Oklahoma's supreme court has decided to apply the discovery rule in some other personal injury cases, but there's no blanket rule saying it applies in all personal injury cases. In other words, whether the discovery rule applies to a particular kind of personal injury lawsuit is a case-by-case question. (See Lovelace v. Keohane, 831 P.2d 624, 629 (Okla. 1992).)

Long story short: The discovery rule might or might not apply in your case. You'll have to get advice from an Oklahoma attorney to find out.

Injured Person Is Legally Disabled

A person who's legally disabled can't manage their own legal affairs without help or supervision from a parent, guardian, or court. Generally speaking, Oklahoma law lets a person who was legally disabled when they were injured sue for those injuries up to one year after their disability is removed.

Note, importantly, that special deadlines apply when a child or a person who's "incompetent" is injured by medical malpractice.

(See Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 96 (2024).)

Person Who Injures You Can't Be Served

When the person who injures you (the "defendant") leaves Oklahoma or goes into hiding and you're unable to serve them with your lawsuit, Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 98 (2024) might "toll" (temporarily pause) the filing deadline until they return to the state or stop hiding.

I Missed the Filing Deadline. Now What?

Statutes of limitations have one job: To kill legal claims. They do that job with extreme efficiency. Miss the filing deadline in your case and—if there's no extension that allows you more time—your case is over. If you file after the statute has run out, the defendant will ask the court to dismiss your lawsuit. The court will have no choice but to grant that request. You've lost the opportunity to seek compensation for your injuries, no matter how serious or permanent they might be.

Don't expect to fare any better if you're still trying to negotiate a settlement of your claim before filing. Once the statute of limitations expires, you lose all your negotiating leverage. The other side won't take the threat of a lawsuit seriously because a lawsuit isn't a possibility. Your claim is legally dead, so there's no reason for your opponent to pay you anything.

Get Help With Your Oklahoma Statute of Limitations Questions

If you take nothing else from this article, it should be this: The statute of limitations is no place for amateurs to venture alone. These are among the most complicated and difficult of all laws to understand and apply. Many lawyers who don't specialize in filing lawsuits won't touch statute of limitations problems. The potential for mistakes is simply too great.

If you think you have a personal injury lawsuit, find an experienced personal injury lawyer near you. And don't delay. Time is the enemy of your personal injury claim.

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