What to Know About the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases

When the negligence of someone else causes you to be injured, the personal injury law gives you the right to seek compensation. However, every state has laws limiting the time that an injured person has to file a lawsuit for injuries suffered in a car crash, slip-and-fall accident, or other types of personal injury cases.

If you wait too long and allow a statute of limitations to expire, your right to be compensated could be lost. Understanding the statute of limitations is vital, including knowing the exceptions that could be available to you. As you read through this article, remember that contacting a Bend personal injury attorney immediately after an accident is the best way to protect your time to make a claim against the at-fault party.

Purpose of a statute of limitations

The general purpose of statutes of limitations in personal injury cases is to protect the rights of the defendant, the party against whom someone injured in an accident seeks compensation. The passage of time after an accident makes it difficult for the at-fault party to investigate the accident, as memories fade and evidence disappears.

You may immediately know after an accident that you have suffered injuries and have a compensation claim, but the person whom you have the claim against may not know it. The statute of limitations prevents you from taking advantage by delaying pursuing the claim. 

How long is the statute of limitations for personal injury cases?

Every state sets its own deadline to file lawsuits in personal injury cases. In Oregon, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including dog bites, car accidents, and product liability claims, is two years from the accident date. If a person dies because of the negligence of another party, a claim for wrongful death must be filed within three years from the accident date. When the statute of limitations expires before you file a lawsuit, the person you sue may have the case dismissed by the court. 

A different deadline and procedure exist when you have a personal injury claim against a government entity. For example, if a government vehicle crashes into your car and you suffer injuries, your personal injury attorney cannot immediately file a lawsuit. The government agency is entitled to receive a written notice of claim within 180 days of the collision date.

The purpose of a notice of claim is to give the government time to investigate the accident before filing a lawsuit in court. The two-year personal injury statute of limitations still applies to your claim, but you must also file a notice of claim with the government agency within 180 days.

An exception to personal injury deadlines 

States recognize that specific individuals may not have the legal or mental capacity to file a lawsuit. Children and people with disabling mental conditions would be examples of people who need more time to sue for compensation. 

Oregon law provides the following exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries:

  • Children younger than 18: The law pauses or tolls the two-year statute of limitations until the earlier occurrence of one of the following events: one year after the child reaches age 18 or five years from the date that the claim first arose. For example, if a child is 5 years old when injured in a car accident, the statute of limitations stops running or as the law refers to it, is tolled for five years. It begins to run again when the child is 10. However, if the accident happened when the child was 15, they must file a lawsuit before age 19. 
  • A person with a disabling mental condition: The statute of limitations tolls for someone who cannot understand their rights due to a disabling mental condition. The pause in the deadline cannot extend for more than five years or more than one year after the mental condition ceases to exist, whichever occurs first.
  • Defendant leaves the state or hides within the state: If a party responsible for causing an accident leaves the state or hides in Oregon before an injured person sues for personal injuries, the statute of limitations pauses until the person returns or is located.

Other exceptions may apply in a specific case, so you should always consult a personal injury attorney for advice about deadlines to sue.

Speak to an experienced personal injury attorney

Do not take deadlines to file a lawsuit lightly because missing one could end your right to obtain compensation for injuries sustained in an accident. Arrange for a consultation with a Bend personal injury attorney as soon after an accident as possible to avoid statute of limitations issues.

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