Every state, including Oregon, has deadlines to file a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you will not be permitted to take your case to trial. In most situations, you or your attorney will make efforts to settle your case, but if those efforts are unsuccessful, you’ll need to file suit before the deadline. Please note—the law is complicated, and there are several exceptions and unique fact patterns that we can’t cover in the scope of one post. The best practice should be to call an attorney after an accident and get some advice.
There is also a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits against public bodies and their officers, employees or agents. For example, if you have a claim against a police department, or a truck driver who was working for the city at the time of an accident, the two year deadline usually applies. It’s important to note that there is an additional notice deadline in claims against governmental entities. Within 180 days of the accident (about 6 months), very specific notice must be given in order to preserve your right to make a claim. This notice deadline expands to one year for wrongful death cases.
Children under age 18 have a special general rule (yes, there are exceptions). Usually, minors must file their cases at the earlier of (1) one year after they turn 18; or (2) seven years (five years plus the original two years) after the accident. One important exception is a claim against a governmental entity, which will not be extended beyond two years.
Claims for wrongful death may typically be filed within three years of the negligence that ultimately caused the death.
Some types of cases have what is called a “discovery rule.” For example, in a medical malpractice case, a lawsuit must be filed within “two years from the date when the injury is first discovered or in the exercise of reasonable care should have been discovered.” However, there is usually a maximum limit of five years from the date of treatment.
This rule extends the deadline to file a suit, because in some cases you may suffer an injury, but there’s no way to know you suffered an injury. The classic example is a cancer misdiagnosis. If you go in for a mammogram on 05/01/14, and the results show cancer but the doctor reports it as normal, you won’t know that the doctor committed malpractice. Let’s say your first indication that anything is wrong is 3 years later, on 05/01/17, when you get another mammogram. Applying the standard statute, you will not be permitted to file a lawsuit. With the discovery rule, however, you will have additional time. A court might decide that the time limit runs from 05/01/17, meaning you could have as long as 05/01/19 (five years after the misread mammogram). Applying the discovery rule can be difficult—they are very case-specific. This situation is even more complicated if, using this example, you had other symptoms before the 2017 mammogram—for example, you felt a lump, or had other medical problems that could be linked to breast cancer.
Remember—the law regarding statute of limitations (deadlines) is complex—there are rules set by the legislature, and those rules are interpreted by courts. Several exceptions exist. The main point is that you should contact a lawyer soon after any type of accidental injury. That lawyer can give you guidance as to the deadlines. If you have questions, contact us at 1-541-617-0555, or fill out our internet Contact form on the right side of the page.