How Long Do You Have to Sue? Is Ohio a No-Fault State for Auto Insurance?
So many questions arise in the aftermath of a car crash.
After all, you learned a lot of things when studying for your driver’s license exam back during those teenage years, and you’ve done your best to keep up with the rules of the road since.
But no one taught you how to take action after an unexpected auto accident, or how to get the compensation you need and deserve.
Unfortunately, the insurance companies usually aren’t as much help as you’d like them to be. Their goal is to save themselves money, not to give you good advice or fight for your financial rights.
In fact, the insurance company’s goals are almost always contrary to your own. The sad reality of today’s claims process is that insurers might not take you seriously until threatened with the prospect of litigation.
Indeed, the insurance adjustors in our state often insist on unfair “lowball” settlement offers, making you feel that you’re lucky to get anything at all… that is, until an experienced and aggressive Ohio auto accident lawyer gets involved.
So how does the claims process work? How long do you have to make a claim? Are you required to go through the insurance company? What about things like “no fault insurance” and “comparative negligence” (terms you may have heard but might not fully understand)? Should you hire a lawyer?
Below, we answer those questions and more.
What Is a Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in Ohio?
A civil statute of limitations is the time period during which you are permitted to bring a claim (or file a lawsuit) after suffering an injury or other damages.
The statute of limitations for car accidents in Ohio is two years from the date of the accident. With very few exceptions, you cannot make a claim for compensation after this two-year time period expires.
Note: if your case involves a claim for wrongful death, the two-year period begins on the date of the death, which might be different than the date of the accident.
Statutes of limitation are strictly enforced. Failing to take action within the time period means you may permanently lose your right to financial justice for any injuries or losses sustained as a result of the crash.
Don’t let the insurance company pressure you into thinking you have less time than you really do. It isn’t unusual for insurance adjustors to make victims feel like they must act immediately on a settlement offer.
Instead, you should take time to talk with a lawyer first.
At Colombo Law, we offer free case reviews to auto accident victims — with no obligation to hire us or pay us anything at the end.
We can help you understand your rights, how much time you have, and how much compensation you might be entitled to.
While two years may seem like a long time, you don’t want to wait too long before contacting a lawyer. Even if your case never proceeds to trial, claims for compensation can take a while to prepare— and also to negotiate.
Because you don’t want the statute of limitations to expire while negotiations are ongoing (thus removing the option to file a lawsuit), it is wise to contact an Ohio auto accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Does Ohio Have No-Fault Insurance for Auto Accidents?
You might have heard the term “no-fault insurance” (sometimes spelled without the hyphen), which is a system of law enacted in several states in the hopes of reducing the amount of personal injury litigation.
In a “no fault” state, each person’s own auto insurance policy covers his or her own injuries — up to a limit — regardless of who caused the crash.
But don’t be confused. Ohio is not a no-fault state for auto insurance. In most cases, you will look to the at-fault driver’s insurance company to recover compensation. If the at-fault party has too little insurance or no insurance at all, you may be able to recover from your own insurance company (depending on your policy) and/or other third parties (depending on the facts and circumstances of the crash).
This might sound like bad news at first. After all, “no fault insurance” sounds like an easy system and a positive phrase, doesn’t it? But in reality, that system is a very complex one, and people who are injured in “no fault” states often have a challenging process ahead of them in the fight for fair compensation.
Granted, claims for compensation in Ohio can be complex too. But an experienced Columbus auto accident lawyer is able to handle those complexities for you, standing up to the insurance companies and demanding that you be paid every penny you’re owed.
Understanding Ohio’s Comparative Negligence Law
Ohio law follows a rule called comparative negligence, which exists in many states, though each jurisdiction applies the rule somewhat differently. It’s important to understand how comparative negligence works in Ohio.
Under the old system of law (still in effect in some places), an accident victim could not recover a single cent of compensation if he or she was found to be even a little bit at fault for the accident.
Most states, including Ohio, recognized that this rule was unduly harsh. Today, Ohio has a fairer system in place: comparative negligence. Under this rule, the court assigns each party a percentage of the fault. The victim’s total recovery is then reduced by his or her percentage of fault.
For example, if you are rear-ended by a speeding driver, but your tail lights were also defective at the time of the crash, a court might decide that you were 20% at fault, while the other driver was 80% at fault. Accordingly, if you suffered $100,000 in damages, you would only be able to recover $80,000.
But here’s where Ohio’s comparative negligence law differs from many other states’: if you are found to be more than 50% at fault, you cannot recover any money at all.
For that reason, the insurance company will often try to argue that you share in more than half the fault. An experienced Columbus auto accident lawyer can work strategically to reduce your apportionment of liability, whether in negotiations or at trial.
Why You Need a Car Accident Lawyer
Insurance companies would like you to believe they’re “there when you need them,” that they’re “good neighbors,” and that they’re always “on your side.”
But insurance adjustors have been specially trained to save their employers money. They do that by working hard to pay you as little money as possible after an accident.
In many cases, insurance companies may even use a “deny at first, pay later if you have to” approach. In other words, no matter how legitimate your damages may be, they’ll take every opportunity to pay you less than you deserve (or nothing at all).
An experienced car accident lawyer can change that dynamic. Your lawyer’s job is to advocate for your best interests and to insist that your rights under the law aren’t impeded. That includes the right to compensation for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence.
By hiring a personal injury attorney, you’re also handing the burden of the claims process over to someone else — someone with experience in these complex, contentious matters.
While Ohio law does not require car accident victims to hire an attorney to pursue their claims, studies have shown that personal injury plaintiffs who hire a lawyer typically recover more money than those who do not.
For these reasons, you should never sign an insurance settlement offer without talking to an experienced Ohio auto accident lawyer first.
Schedule a Free Case Review with an Ohio Car Accident Lawyer at Colombo Law
Remember that there is a very narrow statute of limitations for car accidents in Ohio — just two years in most cases. That’s a much smaller time period than many other states, and because claims take time to research and negotiate, it is in your best interest to talk with a lawyer as soon as possible.
At Colombo Law, we offer decades of experience as Ohio auto accident attorneys. We are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to go after maximum compensation for our clients.
We proudly serve clients all across the state of Ohio, including these areas: Chillicothe, Circleville, Columbus, Heath, Hebron, Lancaster, New Lexington, Newark, Pataskala, Westerville, and beyond.
Here’s our promise to you:
- A free case evaluation with absolutely no obligation to hire us
- Honest guidance and advice
- No attorney fees unless and until we recover damages for you
- Our passion, respect, time, and attention
Come find out why we have a 99% success rate. Contact Colombo Law and schedule a free Ohio auto accident consultation right away.