Any time you've been injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else's property in Oregon (whether residential or commercial), it usually makes sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses -- especially when the property owner's negligence played a part in what happened.
A number of Oregon laws and legal rules will almost certainly affect any lawsuit you decide to file over your slip and fall. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit in Oregon's court, and the "comparative negligence" rule, which can limit your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. Even if you're pretty sure your case will reach a personal injury settlement out of court, you still need to keep these state laws in mind, so read on for the details.
A statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in a state's civil court system. Specific time limits vary depending on the kind of case you want to file.
As with the majority of states, the statute of limitations that applies to a slip and fall case in Oregon is almost always the same one that applies to any kind of personal injury case.
Specifically, Oregon Revised Statutes section 12.110 says: "An action…for any injury to the person or rights of another…shall be commenced within two years." That means you must get your slip and fall lawsuit filed against the property owner within two years of the date of the accident (that's when the "clock" starts running for purposes of the deadline).
If you want to file a lawsuit over any property damage that resulted from the slip and fall accident -- maybe you broke an expensive watch when you fell, for example, a different deadline applies. Under Oregon Revised Statutes section 12.080, you have five years to file a lawsuit asking for repair or replacement of your damaged property.
Whether your slip and fall lawsuit is for injury or property damage, the success or failure of the case will most likely turn on whether you can prove that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to keep the property safe and to prevent your accident. Learn more about premises liability and proving fault for a slip and fall.
If you don't get your slip and fall lawsuit filed before the deadline passes, you can count on the property owner asking the court to dismiss the case once you do try to file it. In some rare instances, the statute of limitations clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your lawsuit started. Talk to a personal injury attorney for the details on these exceptions in Oregon, and whether they might apply to your situation, especially if you're running up against the filing deadline.
You're making a slip and fall claim, only to hear the property owner argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. A defendant who raises this argument is relying on Oregon's "comparative negligence" rule.
Now for the legalese: Oregon Revised Statutes section 31.600 says that an injured person's own negligence will not act as a bar to recovery against other parties "if the fault attributable to the claimant was not greater than the combined fault of all [other] persons …, but any damages allowed shall be diminished in the proportion to the percentage of fault attributable to the claimant."
In plain English, that means even if you are found partly at fault for your slip and fall accident, you can still get compensation from the property owner and/or any other party who is also at fault, as long as your own share of the blame is no higher than 50 percent. The practical effect of all of this if that any damages award you receive from the court will be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault that's determined to be yours. (Oregon juries must typically assign a percentage to each party's liability in a personal injury case.)
So, let's say the jury finds that you are 25 percent responsible for your slip and fall, and your damages (including medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses) total $20,000. That will leave the property owner or other defendant(s) on the hook for $15,000 (your $20,000 total damages minus your 25 percent share of fault for the accident, or $5,000).
What arguments can you expect to hear from the property owner? Here are a few common examples:
Even if your case doesn't make it to trial, Oregon's comparative negligence rule will still be a factor. During settlement negotiations, the property owner's insurance company (and/or their attorney) are concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court. So you can expect any settlement offer to reflect the other side's view of the part you played in causing or contributing to the slip and fall. That's why it's so important to make a strong case against the property owner.
Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.