What Is A Statute of Limitations?

Have you ever talked to an attorney and wondered what the heck they’re saying? Attorneys have a habit of just saying random words that are normal to us, but to everyday people, they don’t exist in their vocabulary. I’m going to make some blogs and videos on several of these words or phrases to help people understand their attorneys better. The term I wanted to start with is statute of limitations. This is a big one, because sometimes you may call into a law firm and they might tell you that your statute of limitations expired and they can’t do anything. They didn’t really explain what a statute of limitations is or how it affects your case.

Statute of Limitations Breakdown

So here’s a quick breakdown of what it actually is. Statute of limitations is basically a fancy way of saying deadline. And it’s basically the deadline that you have to file a lawsuit after the action that leads to a claim happens. So it could be a personal injury case where you have “X” amount of time to file a lawsuit after you’re injured, a medical malpractice case, where you have an “X” amount of time to file a lawsuit after you discover that you’re injured, or it could be an employment case, were you have “X” amount of time to file a lawsuit after you’ve been terminated or discriminated against. Virtually every law has a statute of limitations. At least every law I can think. 

Common Reasons to Extend Statute of Limitations

Generally, statute limitations are pretty hard deadlines, but there are some circumstances where statute of limitations might be extended. Some of the most common ways that statute of limitations are extended are tolling agreements, periods of incapacitation or imprisonment, or being a minor at the time the actions occur. 

A tolling agreement is something that each party’s attorney or the parties themselves enter into to extend the statute of limitations for a case. Essentially, it’s an agreement to not argue that the statute of limitations expired if either party were to file a lawsuit. Oftentimes, these are entered into prior to filing a lawsuit to make sure there are no issues.

The statute of limitations can also be extended if someone is incapacitated. This happens not only if someone is medically incapacitated, but also if someone is imprisoned. In both situations, the individual is unable to go to Court, even if they wanted to. In either scenario, the clock on the statute of limitations pauses until the period of incapacity or imprisonment ends.  Once it ends, the clock starts running again.

A similar extension happens if someone is a minor at the time of the incident. The clock will pause until the minor reaches the age of 18.  After the minor reaches the age of 18, the statute of limitations starts to run.   

Statute of Limitations Takeaway

Just because the statute of limitations can be extended, it does not mean you should bank on an extension happening.  It’s always safer to get an attorney, and talk about your potential claims as soon as they occur.  At worst, you’re talking to an attorney too early and may need to call back later. But at best, you’ve given your Ohio employment attorney plenty of time to figure out a strategy for your case. 

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James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discrimination and general civil litigation throughout the State of Ohio.