Most people have heard the phrase “statute of limitations,” but what does it really mean? In legal terms, a statute of limitations sets limits on the length of time available to undertake legal action. The time limits vary depending on the type of case. They also vary from state to state.
Ohio Statutes Of Limitations In General
In Ohio, there are statutes of limitations on both criminal and civil cases. In criminal cases, the statute means that the state cannot prosecute an individual for committing a crime if the statute has expired, or “run.” In civil cases, the statute limits the amount of time an individual has to file a lawsuit.
Statutes Of Limitations In Criminal Cases
In Ohio, there are statutes of limitations on the following criminal offenses:
- Fraud, within one year of discovery
- Official misconduct, within two years of discovery
- Manslaughter, rape, felonious assault and other violent crimes, 20 years
- Murder, no limit
Statutes Of Limitations In Civil Cases
The statutes of limitations in Ohio civil personal injury (civil) cases include:
- Wrongful death, two years after the death
- Product liability (defective products), two years or 10 years, depending on when the injury was discovered and when the product was made
- Bodily injury, two years after the injury
- Medical malpractice, one year or four years, depending on when the injury was discovered
Medical malpractice is usually defined as a deviation from the standard of care that injured or killed a patient. When it results in death, two distinct claims are possible. The first is a medical malpractice claim for personal loss and pain and suffering before the person died on behalf of the decedent’s estate. The second is a wrongful death claim for the financial loss suffered by the deceased’s spouse and next of kin. A wrongful death action can be filed even if a medical malpractice claim cannot be filed because of the statute of limitations.
Tort Reform Affects The Statute Of Limitations
Efforts to impose limits on medical malpractice cases (known as tort reform), either on the statute of limitations or on the amount of damages that can be awarded, have been relatively successful. The one-year limit on filing claims is one of the shortest in the United States and is more restrictive than other tort and civil causes of action. The result of tort reform, according to its advocates, has been a significant reduction in premiums for medical malpractice insurance.
This reduction, which primarily benefits doctors and insurance companies, has not been without cost. The four-year limit has been controversial, because it effectively bars plaintiffs from seeking relief for injuries that they did not know about and could not have reasonably known about within the four-year limit. It also has not reduced health care costs as promised by supporters of reform.
Instead, because of its restrictions on filing medical malpractice claims, the statute of limitations has reduced access to justice for people who were injured as the result of medical malpractice.