If you’re considering making a personal injury claim after an accident, it’s crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential case. That's true in every state, and Oregon is no exception. For readers not fluent in “legalese,” a “statute of limitations” is just a law that puts a strict time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in the state's civil court system. There are usually different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.
For Oregon personal injury claimants, the relevant statute of limitations can be found at Oregon Revised Statutes section 12-110, which says, “Actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues."
In other words, if someone else's carelessness or intentional action played a role in injuring you, you have two years to get any civil lawsuit filed against that person, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the underlying incident. (Learn more about How and When to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit.)
What happens if you don't get your personal injury lawsuit started before Oregon’s two-year window closes? In that situation, you can bet that the person you are trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss your lawsuit, and unless some exception applies to extend the deadline (more on these below) the court will grant the request. If that happens, you’re left with no way to hold the other party responsible for your injuries and other losses.
Exceptions to the Running of the Statute of Limitations “Clock” in Oregon
It's important to note that the filing deadline is not absolute. There are some rare instances where the running of the “clock” can be paused or “tolled” in Oregon, meaning that the filing deadline is extended beyond two years. For example:
- Where the person bringing the lawsuit was a minor at the time of the underlying accident, the deadline will be extended, but not for more than five years, or for more than one year after the person reaches 18 years of age, whichever occurs first, according to Oregon Revised Statutes section 12.160.
- Where the person bringing the lawsuit was deemed legally insane at the time of the underlying accident, the deadline will be extended, but not for more than five years, or for more than one year after the person is no longer insane, whichever occurs first (that’s also according to Oregon Revised Statutes section 12.160.
- If the defendant is concealed within the state of Oregon, or is out of state and can’t be served at the time the case arises, or if they leave Oregon for part of the two-year period, the amount of time the defendant was gone (or concealed) probably won’t be counted as part of the two years (subject to the larger 10-year time limit set by Oregon Revised Statutes section 12.115, which says “In no event shall any action for negligent injury to person or property of another be commenced more than 10 years from the date of the act or omission complained of.”)
Those are just a few examples. If you have specific questions about extending the statute of limitations deadline in Oregon, an experienced personal injury attorney will have the answers.
Even if you're only making an insurance claim for now, and you don't believe you're going to end up filing a personal injury lawsuit, it's still important to keep the statute of limitations deadline in mind. You always want to make sure you have the option of taking your case to court. Lose that option, and you lose your negotiating leverage during injury settlement talks. (Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling an Injury Claim.)
For more personalized information on the Oregon personal injury statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation, contact an experienced Oregon personal injury lawyer.