After any kind of accident in Oregon, if you're making an injury-related insurance claim—or thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit—a number of state laws could come into play at some point. From the statute of limitations lawsuit-filing deadline to the state's "modified comparative negligence" rule, let's take an in-depth look at a few key Oregon personal injury laws.
All states have passed laws setting limits on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in court after suffering some type of harm. There are different deadlines depending on what type of case you want to file, but in general this kind of law is called a statute of limitations.
In Oregon, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives an injured person two years from the date of the injury to go to civil court and file a lawsuit. (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.110(1)).
If you fail to get your lawsuit filed before the two-year window closes, the Oregon civil court system will likely refuse to hear your case at any time in the future, and your right to compensation will be lost. This is a harsh result, but it only underscores the importance of:
In some situations, the statute of limitations can be extended, or the running of the "clock" might be paused, effectively extending the deadline.
If the Injured Person Is a Minor or Someone With a "Disabling Mental Condition." If, at the time of the incident, the injured person is under 18 or has a "disabling mental condition" that keeps them from understanding their legal rights, they'll be entitled to at least one extra year to file their personal injury lawsuit once they turn 18 or are declared competent (according to Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.160).
Note that the filing deadline usually won't be extended for more than five years in this situation. So, if more than five years have passed since the incident that led to the injury, the right to file a lawsuit will likely be lost, even if the injured person is still under 18 or is still subject to a mental disability.
Defendant's Absence From/Concealment In Oregon. If the person responsible for the injury leaves Oregon and takes up residence in another state, or if they take steps to "conceal" themselves within the state, the period of absence/concealment probably won't be counted as part of the two-year period (the statute of limitations "clock" will be paused during this time, in other words). Oregon Revised Statutes section 12.150.
An experienced personal injury attorney can best explain how to file a personal injury lawsuit in Oregon. But generally speaking, this kind of lawsuit will be filed in one of the state's circuit courts, which have the power to hear most civil court trials. Circuit courts can be found in each of Oregon's 36 counties, which are grouped into 27 judicial districts across the state. Learn more about the Oregon Judicial Department and How to File a Case (from courts.oregon.gov).
If you won't be seeking more than $10,000 from the person you're suing for your injuries, you might consider small claims court in Oregon.
In some personal cases, the person or business you're trying to hold responsible could argue that you're actually to blame (at least partially) for the incident that led to your injuries. If you do share some degree of fault, and your injury lawsuit is one of the rare ones that end up going all the way to trial, it can end up affecting the total amount of compensation you can receive.
In shared fault injury cases like these, Oregon follows a "modified comparative negligence rule." This means that the amount of compensation you're entitled to receive will be reduced by an amount that's equal to your percentage of negligence. But if you're found to bear more than 50 percent of the legal blame, you can't collect anything at all from other at-fault parties in Oregon's courts. (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 31.600.)
Let's say you're rear-ended at a stoplight, but one of your brake lights wasn't working at the time. During a civil trial, the jury decides that:
Under Oregon's modified comparative negligence rule, your compensation will be reduced to $18,000 (or the $20,000 total minus the $2,000 that represents your 10 percent share of fault for the accident.)
Not technically, no. Oregon courts are obligated to follow the state's comparative fault rule in an injury lawsuit that makes it to trial. It's not a law that insurance companies are required to apply to an insurance claim. But don't be surprised if the other side's insurance adjuster raises the issue of Oregon's comparative negligence rule during settlement talks. After all, insurance companies negotiate an injury settlement with an eye on what might happen if the case ends up in court.
Like a number of other states, Oregon has placed some limits on the amounts and types of damages an injured person can receive in civil court, even after they've won their personal injury trial. But Oregon's caps are specific to certain kinds of injury cases.
In Oregon, there is a $500,000 limit on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases only (not in other standard personal injury cases). In wrongful death cases, non-economic damages can be awarded for survivors' loss of emotional support resulting from a loved one's death. (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 31.710)
Learn more about special/general and economic/non-economic damages.
There's no longer an across-the-board cap on non-economic damages in Oregon personal injury cases, just for wrongful death claims. A generally-applicable cap for most kinds of injury cases was enacted a few decades ago, but the state's appeals courts have issued numerous decisions on the unconstitutionality of that law.
For injury claims against the government, the Oregon Tort Claims Act limits the amount of compensation an injured person can receive. The size of the cap depends on when the injury occurred, and whether the claim is against the state government, or a local municipality.
For injuries that happen on or after July 1, 2023 and before July 1, 2024, the caps are:
You'll find a schedule listing of current and recent Tort Claims Table of Liability Limits from courts.oregon.gov.
If you're looking for more details on how personal injury claims work and what to expect from the process, check out these articles:
For legal advice that's tailored to your specific situation in Oregon, you might want to discuss your potential case with a personal injury lawyer.