Oregon Personal Injury Laws and Statute of Limitations

Get the details on Oregon's personal injury statute of limitations, how the state's "comparative negligence" rule could affect your case, and more.

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

If you're filing an injury-related insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit after any kind of accident in Oregon, including a car crash or a slip-and-fall, a number of state laws could come into play. From the statute of limitations lawsuit-filing deadline to the state's "modified comparative negligence" rule and more, let's take an in-depth look at a few key Oregon personal injury laws.

What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations In Oregon?

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 most personal injury cases gives an injured person two years from the date of the injury to go to civil court and file a lawsuit. This deadline would apply to a personal injury lawsuit filed over a number of types of injuries, including those resulting from a:

This deadline can be found at Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.110(1)).

But specific kinds of injury cases have their own dedicated statute of limitations in Oregon, including:

  • a three-year deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Oregon (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 30.020).
  • a one-year deadline for filing a defamation lawsuit in Oregon (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.120)
  • a two-year deadline for Oregon medical malpractice lawsuits (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.110(4)
  • a two-year deadline for product liability lawsuits (set by Oregon Rev. Stat. section 30.905)
  • a six-year deadline for most Oregon lawsuits over injury to real or personal property (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.080)
  • a special deadline for legal claims over childhood sexual abuse, which lets claimants file a lawsuit either 1) before they turn 40 years old, or 2) within 5 years of the date the claimant discovers "or in the exercise of reasonable care should have discovered" the connection between their abuse and their harm, whichever period is longer (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 12.117)

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

If there's no question as to the source of the injury (who was at fault, for example), and there's no issue about whether the harm should have been obvious right away, then the statute of limitations "clock" typically starts running on the date of the incident that caused the injury. So, a personal injury lawsuit over car accident injuries would need to be filed within two years of the date on which the crash occurred.

But if the harm suffered wasn't obvious as soon as it occurred, then the statute of limitations clock might not start running until:

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

This is often called the "discovery rule," and it applies to most kinds of injury lawsuits in Oregon. An example might be where a patient was injured by a surgeon's negligent action during a procedure, but resulting health problems didn't surface until months after the operation.

It can be tricky to prove you're entitled to what's essentially an extension of the statute of limitations deadline under the discovery rule, so a lawyer's help is crucial here.

What If I Miss the Oregon Statute of Limitations Deadline?

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:

  • understanding how the deadline applies in your situation, and
  • leaving yourself plenty of time to take your injury claim to court if you need to.

Can the Statute of Limitations Deadline Be Extended In Oregon?

In some situations, the statute of limitations can be extended, or the running of the "clock" might be paused, effectively extending the deadline.

Oregon's "Discovery Rule" for Injury-Related Lawsuits. As we touched on above, if the injury wasn't obvious right away, the statute of limitations clock might not start running until the harm is actually discovered, or should have been discovered "in the exercise of reasonable care."

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.

If the Defendant Leaves Oregon (or "Conceals" Themselves). 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 Rev. Stat. section 12.150.

How and Where Do I File an Oregon Personal Injury Lawsuit?

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.

What If I'm Partly at Fault for My Injury 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.)

How Does Oregon's Modified Comparative Negligence Rule Work?

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:

  • you were 10 percent at fault for the accident
  • the other driver was 90 percent to blame, and
  • your "damages"—medical bills, vehicle repair costs, and other accident-related losses—add up to $20,000.

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.)

Does Oregon's Modified Comparative Negligence Rule Apply to Insurance Claims?

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.

Are There Caps on Personal Injury Damages In Oregon?

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.

Oregon's Non-Economic Damages Cap Applies Only to Wrongful Death Damages

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)

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.

Learn more about Oregon wrongful death cases.

Caps on Damages Under the Oregon Tort Claims Act

For injury and property damage 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.

The caps are updated every year and published by the Oregon Office of the State Court Administrator (OSCA).

For injuries that happen on or after July 1, 2023 and before July 1, 2024, the caps are:

  • For injury claims against the state, $2,490,600 for a single claimant, and $4,981,300 for multiple claimants injured in the same incident. (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 30.271.)
  • For injury claims against local municipalities, $830,300 for a single claimant, and $1,660,400 for multiple claimants injured in the same incident. (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 30.272.)
  • For incidents resulting in property damage, against either the state or a local government, $136,200 for a single claimant and $680,900 for multiple claimants arising from the same incident. (Oregon Rev. Stat. section 30.273.)

Getting Help With an Oregon Personal Injury Case

Having an experienced lawyer on your side can be crucial to getting the best result for any kind of personal injury claim in Oregon. Learn more about when you need a lawyer for a personal injury claim, and get tips on finding the right injury lawyer.

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