What Is the Oregon Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?

An in-depth look at Oregon's statute of limitations deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit, including situations that might extend the deadline.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

After a car accident, a slip-and-fall, or any other incident in which someone else's conduct causes you harm in Oregon, you could be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit. If so, it's crucial to understand and comply with the statute of limitations that applies to these kinds of cases.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a law that sets a strictly-enforced time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in civil court. Every state has these kinds of laws on the books, with deadlines that differ depending on the kind of case being filed.

Let's look at Oregon's statute of limitations for different kinds of personal injury cases, why the filing deadline is so important, and a few situations in which the filing deadline might be extended.

Two Years is the Standard Time Limit for Oregon Personal Injury Lawsuits

The statute of limitations that will apply to most Oregon personal injury lawsuits can be found at Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.110, which says: "An action for assault, battery, false imprisonment, or for any injury to the person or rights of another...shall be commenced within two years."

So, if you want to turn to the state's civil court system and ask for a civil remedy (damages) after an injury caused by someone else in Oregon, this two-year deadline probably applies. That's true whether your personal injury case is driven by:

  • the liability principle of "negligence" (which applies to claims filed after a car accident, slip and fall incident, and other mishaps), or by
  • the concept of intentional tort (which would apply to civil lawsuits over an assault).

Other Specific Deadlines Might Apply to Your Oregon Injury Case

Certain kinds of injury cases have their own distinct statute of limitations in Oregon, including:

When Does the Statute of Limitations "Clock" Start Running In Oregon?

The statute of limitations "clock" typically starts running on the date of the accident or incident that caused the injury. So, a lawsuit over dog bite injuries would need to be filed within two years of the day the dog bit you.

But not all injuries are obvious right away. Think of a potential medical malpractice lawsuit based on a surgeon's leaving an instrument inside a patient. The patient doesn't begin to experience pain and other health problems until months after the procedure. Under Oregon's "discovery rule," the statute of limitations clock might not start running on the right to file an injury suit until:

  • the injury is first discovered, or
  • "in the exercise of reasonable care" the injury should have been discovered.

It can be hard to prove that the discovery rule applies to your situation, so having a lawyer's help can be critical if your lawsuit hinges on this issue.

What If You Miss the Deadline Set By the Oregon Statute of Limitations?

If the two-year filing deadline has passed, and you try to file your personal injury lawsuit in court anyway, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly point this out in a motion to dismiss your case. And unless a rare exception entitles you to extra time (we'll discuss a few of these exceptions later), the court will grant the dismissal.

Oregon's personal injury statute of limitations is obviously crucial if you want to take your injury case to court by way of a formal lawsuit, but the statutory filing deadline is also pivotal to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and his or her insurance company. Two years can go by in a hurry, and if you've allowed the deadline to pass without getting your lawsuit filed, and the other side knows it, you'll have lost all your negotiating leverage. After all, "I'll see you in court" becomes an empty threat when that same court is no longer an option for your dispute.

Can the Oregon Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Be Extended?

A few situations could pause the running of Oregon's two-year statute of limitations "clock," effectively extending the filing deadline.

Oregon's Discovery Rule Might Apply to Your Personal Injury Case

As we mentioned early, in some situations an injury (or the cause of the harm) might not be obvious right away, so the injured person might be entitled to additional time to get their lawsuit filed, under Oregon's "discovery rule."

If the Injured Person Is a Minor or Is Mentally Disabled

If at the time of the accident, the injured person is under the age of 18 or "has a disabling mental condition that bars the person from comprehending rights that the person is otherwise bound to know," they'll likely have extra time to file the personal injury lawsuit once this period of "legal disability" ends (meaning once the injured person turns 18 or is declared competent), according to Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.160.

But the filing period won't be extended for more than five years, or for more than one year after the disability ends, whichever comes first.

If the Defendant Leaves the State or "Conceals" Themselves

Next, under Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.150, if the defendant departs from the state of Oregon at any point after the underlying accident, but before the lawsuit can be filed, and takes up residence in another state, or if the defendant takes steps to conceal themselves within the state, the period of absence/concealment probably won't be counted as part of the one-year period (the statute of limitations "clock" will be paused during this time, in other words).

Getting Help With an Oregon Injury Case

If you have questions about how the Oregon statute of limitations applies to your personal injury case—especially if the deadline is fast-approaching or has already passed—it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer in Oregon.

Having the right lawyer on your side is often the best way to ensure a fair resolution to your case. Learn more about how a personal injury lawyer can make a difference, and get tips on finding the right injury attorney.

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