How Long Can You Wait to File a Car Accident Claim in Ohio?

After a car accident that causes injuries or property damage, people naturally have plenty of questions about settlement and car accident litigation. Some of the most important issues in most car accident claims involve insurance coverage, whether the at-fault driver was uninsured or the injury victim needs compensation for medical bills and other damages beyond auto liability policy limits.

A recent Ohio Court of Appeals case looked at a question frequently asked of personal injury attorneys: What is the statute of limitations for bringing a driver negligence claim in Ohio?

The case involved a truck accident claim against the driver of a freight truck who allegedly failed to yield the right of way to the injured motorist. The truck was entering a state highway from a private drive and the plaintiff claimed that the truck driver's failure to operate his truck in a reasonably prudent fashion resulted in severe bodily injury.

The accident occurred on January 6, 2009, and the plaintiff did not file his complaint until January 14, 2011. Because of Ohio's two-year statute of limitations on claims involving product liability, bodily injury or injury to personal property, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss.

The trial court granted the motion despite the plaintiff's argument that, because the truck driver was an out-of-state resident, his claim was protected by the "savings" statute. This provision stops the clock on the two-year interval at any time when the defendant is out of state, has absconded or conceals himself or herself.

The court of appeals reversed the dismissal, holding that the trial court improperly dismissed the claim. While a line of cases have held that Ohio's savings statute does not apply to out-of-state defendants who are engaged in interstate commerce, the driver's purpose while driving in Ohio on the day of the accident had not been established.

One important strategy employed by car accident lawyers is to keep clients' claims alive until all legal options have been exhausted. By holding ground when uncertainty remains, an attorney can explore opportunities for settlement and development of the facts that might benefit a client's prospects for recovery. It is critical to seek advice from an attorney as early as possible to ensure your rights are protected.