Time limit laws can be muddled and extensive: the Oregon State Bar, for instance, uses approximately 250 pages just to summarize Oregon time limit laws. To be sure, time limits vary widely depending on the situation. We’ve outlined a few of Oregon’s general time limit laws for common car crashes, but in order to be certain about which time limit laws apply to your case, you or your lawyer will need to do some research.
In general, Oregon personal injury cases must be filed with the court within two years of the date of the injury. There are, however, several important exceptions:
(1) Occasionally this timeline can be extended by the “discovery rule,” which allows a person to file a case within two years of the date that the cause of the injury was discovered, rather than the date of the injury itself. Unfortunately, the “discovery rule” rarely applies to car crash cases.
The “discovery rule” can, however, be important to other injury cases. For example. suppose a doctor performs surgery and leaves a sponge inside a patient, but the patient does not discover the sponge until 3 years later when stomach pain brings her to the doctor and the sponge is discovered. In this case, the 2 year time limit to file a case may not begin until the sponge is discovered, giving her in effect 5 years from the time of the actual injury. We write “may not begin,” because discovery rule cases are often contested, and it’s often up to the judge to decide when and how to apply the discovery rule.
(2) If the person injured is a child, the statute of limitations is complicated. ORS 12.160 states that the time for bringing the lawsuit does not start being counted until the child turns 18. However, the time limit will never be extended for more than 5 years. And the time limit will not be extended for more than one year after the child’s 18th birthday. The details can get complicated, and if you are in this situation, you are welcome to call this office and we will figure out the correct statute of limitations for your child. If you prefer to figure it out yourself, ORS 12.160 is available online.
(3) If you were hurt by a drunk driver, special time limits apply. It is sometimes possible to sue the bar that served the drunk driver alcohol. This is only possible in certain circumstances, but in order to maintain even the possibility of such a suit, a “Dram Shop Notice” must be sent to the bar within 180 days of the accident. Note: 180 days is not 6 months! If you mail the notice just one day late, your case will not be accepted. There is no leeway in these time limits. ORS 471.565 gives the details, and is available online.
(4) If you were hurt by a City of Portland driver, a State employee who was on the job, a Tri-Met bus, or any other state, county, or city worker, you will probably have to file a Tort Claim Notice within 180 days. Again, 180 days is not 6 months! The notice must be sent to the right person, and must say the right things. Details are in ORS 30.275, which is also available online.
Of course, you will generally want to file your case as soon as possible, for several reasons: witnesses tend to forget things with time, and evidence will be lost. At DuBois Law Group, we have a policy of filing within 18 months or earlier, unless there is a very good reason to wait. We will rarely take a case for a person who was hurt more than 18 months ago. The longer you wait to file your case and the closer you get to the deadline for filing, the more difficult it will be to find a lawyer who will take your case. Don’t wait until the last minute