The last thing a grieving family should have to worry about after the loss of a loved one is a potential lawsuit associated with the death. However, Ohio courts want claims to be filed soon after an injury or death, when it's easier to gather all the involved parties and assemble relevant evidence and testimony while it's fresh in people's minds.
For these reasons, Ohio wrongful death claims have a strict time limit under which they may be brought, known as the statute of limitations. If a lawsuit is filed after the statute of limitations, it will generally be barred unless there is a good reason for the delay. Ohio courts rarely grant exceptions to the statute of limitations.
In Ohio, wrongful death claims must generally be filed within two years of the death. There is a notable exception to this strict time limit, however, commonly referred to as the discovery rule.
The Discovery Rule
When it's not apparent that a loved one's death was caused by someone else's negligence or wrongful act, the discovery rule can delay the statute of limitations. When another party's negligence causes death, the statute of limitations begins to run when the deceased's representative discovers - or should have reasonably discovered - the alleged negligence. In the legal profession, this is known as tolling the statute of limitations.
The purpose of the discovery rule is clear: to prevent at-fault parties from avoiding or escaping liability, either actively or passively. When an at-fault party causes a wrongful death, he or she is probably going to act in his or her own interest and disclose as little information as possible. This "run around" can hide negligence for long periods of time, but fortunately, the discovery rule helps protect Ohio wrongful death claimants from forfeiting their rights, so long as they act reasonably.
While the concept of the discovery rule is fairly straightforward, its application is much more complicated. It's important to have an experienced Ohio attorney advocating on your behalf, because losing an argument on the application of the discovery rule will probably bar your wrongful death claim from ever being heard in court.
At The Donahey Law Firm, our Ohio wrongful death lawyers are adept at making convincing arguments regarding the statute of limitations and the discovery rule. If you'd like to discuss the specifics of your claim, call 866-918-5886 or email us and an experienced attorney will give you a free consultation.