Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice

The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim based on ordinary negligence is two years. R.C. 2305.10. In contrast, a negligence action based on a medical claim must be brought within one year. R.C. 2305.113.

In a lawsuit for medical malpractice, the one-year statute of limitations commences when the patient discovers, or in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence should have discovered, the resulting injury. In some cases, the statute of limitations begins to run when the physician-patient relationship for that condition terminates.

The attorneys at Steiden Law Offices represent clients in a wide range of medical malpractice cases in Ohio. We also represent clients in personal injury lawsuits involving a dental, optometric, or chiropractic claim throughout Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky.

Our firm has offices in Cincinnati and Mainesville, Ohio. Our caring and compassionate personal injury attorneys can review your case when you call (513) 888-8888 to schedule a free discussion.

Applying the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice

In applying the statute of limitations to a medical malpractice lawsuit in Ohio, the court will look at the facts of the case to determine: 

  1. when the victim of medical malpractice became aware, or should have become aware, of the extent and seriousness of his condition;
  2. when the victim of medical malpractice was aware, or should have been aware, that the condition was related to a specific medical service previously rendered him;
  3. whether the condition would put a reasonable person on notice of the need for further inquiry as to the cause of the condition.

Thus, under the discovery rule, a cause of action for medical malpractice accrues when the patient discovers, or, in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence should have discovered, the resulting injury.

When determining the first prong of the test regarding the injured party's awareness of the extent and seriousness of his condition, the court must find that a ‘cognizable event’ occurred that put the party on notice that his injury is related to a specific medical procedure and of the need to pursue his possible remedies.

Rather than looking at when the plaintiff had actual knowledge, the courts can also consider the constructive knowledge of facts. In other words, the plaintiff need not have discovered all the relevant facts necessary to file a claim in order to trigger the statute of limitations.

Since the accrual of the cause of action depends upon the existence of a “cognizable event,” it is important to understand the definition fo this term. “A ‘cognizable event’ is defined as the occurrence of facts and circumstances which lead, or should lead, the patient to believe that the physical condition or injury of which she complains is related to a medical diagnosis, treatment or procedure that she previously received.

The cognizable event is deemed to puts the plaintiff on notice to investigate the facts and circumstances relevant to her claim in order to pursue her remedies.

The 180 Day Rule

Ohio law provides an exception to this general rule under R.C. 2305.113(B) which provides an exception to the statute of limitations by giving the litigants the opportunity to extend the one-year statute of limitations for an additional one hundred eighty days from the time proper notice is given to potential defendants.

R.C. 2305.113(B)(1) provides:

If prior to the expiration of the one-year period specified in division (A) of this section, a claimant who allegedly possesses a [medical malpractice] claim gives to the person who is the subject of that claim written notice that the claimant is considering bringing an action upon that claim, that action may be commenced against the person notified at any time within one hundred eighty days after the notice is so given.


Ohio's Saving Statute

Ohio's savings statute, provides, in relevant part:

In any action that is commenced or attempted to be commenced, [and] if in due time * * * the plaintiff fails otherwise than upon the merits, the plaintiff * * * may commence a new action within one year after the date of * * * the plaintiff's failure otherwise than upon the merits or within the period of the original applicable statute of limitations, whichever occurs later.


Ohio's Statute of Repose in Medical Malpractice Cases

R.C. 2305.113(C), Ohio's statute of repose, provides:

(C) Except * * * as provided in division (D) of this section, both of the following apply:

(1) No action upon a medical, dental, optometric, or chiropractic claim shall be commenced more than four years after the occurrence of the act or omission constituting the alleged basis of the medical, dental, optometric, or chiropractic claim.

(2) If an action upon a medical, dental, optometric, or chiropractic claim is not commenced within four years after the occurrence of the act or omission constituting the alleged basis of the medical, dental, optometric, or chiropractic claim, then, any action upon that claim is barred.

Regardless of the applicable statute of limitations, a person must file a medical claim no later than four years after the alleged act of malpractice occurs or the claim will be barred. In other words, Ohio law establishes a period beyond which medical claims may not be brought even if the injury giving rise to the claim does not accrue because it is undiscovered until after the period has ended.

R.C. 2305.113(D)(1) and (2) provides limited exceptions to the four-year limitation for malpractice discovered during the fourth year after treatment and for malpractice that leaves a foreign object in a patient's body. Under these exceptions, a plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit in Ohio only has an additional year following the discovery of their injury to file a claim.

In other words, Ohio's statute of repose forever bars any claim after the four-year period provided by R.C. 2305.113(C) expires. Additionally, R.C. 2305.113(A) bars claims not commenced within one year of “discovery.


This article was last updated on Friday, September 1, 2017.

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