All Claims Arising Out of Auto Accident Lost When Lawsuit Not Commenced Within Two Years
In Ohio adults injured as a result of an automobile collision must commence their lawsuit within two years or the claim is barred by the statute of limitations. A spouse who was not injured in the accident but suffers losses because of the other spouse's injuries has a derivative claim for loss of services and loss of consortium. The time frame for bringing a loss of services or consortium claim is four years. However, in a recent Ninth District Court of Appeals decision (Summit, Lorain, Wayne, and Medina Counties), the court of appeals ruled that a consortium claim brought within four years would not be allowed to proceed when the injured spouse did not bring a claim within the two year statute.
In the recent case of Young v. Zukowski, the plaintiffs' case was thrown out of court because of an untimely filing. Mrs. Young and her son were involved in an automobile collision with Mr. Zukowski on March 2, 2007. They suffered injuries, and ultimately failed to obtain compensation through the Zukowski’s insurance company, Allstate. On March 6, 2009, Young and her husband then filed suit against Zukowski based on negligence and loss of consortium. During the course of the proceedings the trial court ruled that the claims were time barred because the statute of limitations had expired on March 2, 2009, four days before they filed suit.
The Youngs appealed this ruling to the Ninth District Court of Appeals. The Youngs put forth three arguments to try and keep their case alive. They first argued that because the defendant had been out of the state for partial days, they could rely on a statute that stopped the running of the statute of limitations for each day a defendant was out of the state. The defendant, Mr. Zukowski, case was only out of the state for parts of a day and not for full days. The court ruled that the defendant had to be gone for a full day in order to "toll" or stop the statute during the defendant's absence.
Next the Youngs argued that they had been misled by the insurance company, Allstate, and lulled into thinking that their claims would be settled within the statute of limitations. Allstate had sent them twelve letters from June 2008 to October 2009 indicating that Allstate was continuing to investigate the claim at issue and that it anticipated resolving the matter "in 365 days or sooner." Mr. and Mrs. Young alleged that Allstate’s letters implied that they would reach settlement and gave them a "false sense of security" which caused them to delay bringing suit against Zukowski. Despite the wording of the letters the Court did not find that Allstate made any factual misrepresentation to them.
Finally, the Youngs argued that even if Mrs. Young's claim was not commenced in time, her husband's loss of consortium claim was timely because it was filed within four years. The court of appeals rejected this argument and found that Mr. Young could only maintain his claim if Mrs. Young's claim was still viable. Thus, neither Mr. or Mrs. Youngs were permitted to proceed with the lawsuit.
There are numerous pitfalls when trying to recover damages for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Insurance company tactics can be confusing, and the applicable law on timely filings is also complex. While not all situations merit a lawsuit, you should always be aware of your rights and options. If you have been injured due to an automobile accident seek the guidance of an experienced accident lawyer.