Many people ask the same question, how long do I have to file my personal injury case? In general, Oregon personal injury cases must be filed with the court within two years of the date of the injury. This does not mean you can decide one year and eleven months after your accident that you want to file- there is a lot of preparation that goes into filing a complaint. Attorneys prefer to take a case at least a year before the statute of limitations date. If you are pursuing your case yourself, you probably want to start the process at least a year in advance because you will not be as familiar with the steps required.
Be aware that the two-year time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit is Oregon-specific. The time limits are different in other states. This can sometimes we be extended by the “discovery rule”. The discovery rule generally will not apply in accident cases, but it is something to be aware of for other types of injury. The discovery rule allows a person to start counting from the date the cause of the injury is (or should have been) discovered, rather than from the date of the injury itself.
Some important statutes of limitations you need to know are listed below:
- If a child is injured, the statute of limitations is complicated. ORS 12.60 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 five years, nor will it be extended for more than one year after the child’s 18th birthday. In general, if a child is 17 or older at the time of the accident, the statute will run in two years, just like for an adult. If the child is between 12 and 17, the time limit will run out on the child’s 19th birthday. If the child is under 12, the time will run out 7 years after the injury.
- If you were hurt by a drunk driver then special time limits apply. It is sometimes possible to sue the bar (or establishment, like restaurant or nightclub) that served alcohol to the drunk driver. This is only possible in certain circumstances, but to maintain even the possibility of such a suit, you must send a Dram Shop Notice (ORS 471.565) to the bar within 180 days of the accident. A Dram Shop Notice is a special letter that tells the establishment or person who served the alcohol that a claim for damages is being made against the establishment, a description of the time, place, and circumstances giving rise to the claim, and the name and mailing address of the person making the claim. If the drunk driving led to not just an injury, but death, then you have a year instead of 180 days.
- If you were hurt by a state, county or city worker you will have to file a Tort Claim Notice within 180 days. You must send the notice to the right person, and must say the right things. The Tort Claim Notice has to say the same things that a Dram Shop Notice has to say: that a claim is being made against the public body; or an office, employee, or agent of the public body; a description of the time, place and circumstances giving rise to the claim, and the name and address of the person making the claim. And again, if the result was not just injury, but death, you have a year instead of 180 days.
- If a person is killed in an accident, then the case is referred to as a “wrongful death” case and many special rules apply. The time limit for filing a lawsuit in a wrongful death case in Oregon is three years from the date the event that ultimately caused the death. If you are a drunk driver, or a state, county or city worker who caused the wrongful death, you only have one year to file a claim.
- If the last day of your time limit falls on a Saturday, Sunday or court holiday, you have until the next court day. This does NOT apply to the 180-day Tort Claim or Dram Shop limits. Do not take any chances and file your claim in advance!