For the most part, a child’s auto injury claim in Oregon is the same as any other injury claim–it’s a matter of figuring out who was at fault and what the proper compensation for the child’s injuries ought to be. There are a few wrinkles, however,
The first is that while an adult must file a lawsuit within 2 years of the injury or her claim will expire, an injured child may have substantially longer. An Oregon statute, ORS 12.160(1), provides that if a child is under 18 at the time of the accident, “the statute of limititon for commencing the action is tolled for so long as teh person is younger than 18 years of age.”
However, ORS 12.160(2) complicates things, by adding:
“The time for commencing an action may not be extended under subsection (1) of this section for more than five years, or for more than one year after the person attains 18 years of age, whichever occurs first.”
So, does a 3-year-old child injured in a car accident have 5 years to bring a lawsuit or 7 years? Two Oregon cases have held, interpreting earlier and slightly different versions of this statute, that a young child has 7 years (the 2 year limit plus a 5 year extension) to file suit. However, because these cases are old (a 1974 case, Shaw v. Zabel, and a 1982 case, Guiley v. Hammaker) I would recommend filing within 5 years of the injury.
It is important to note that I have been discussing car accidents. For children injured by medical malpractice there are different rules and a medical malpractice attorney should be consulted.
What if the injured child is 16 years-old at the time of the car accident? Because of the “one year after the person attains 18 years of age” rule she does not have either 5 years nor 7 years in which to file. Instead, I believe she must file prior to her 19th birthday.
This statute, ORS 12.160, is quite confusing and subject to misunderstanding. I write this blog post with emphasis on my usual caveat: this is informative only; this does not create an attorney client relationship between you and me. This blog site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
The second wrinkle for Oregon child car accident claims is that minors cannot sue in their own names only and settlement of minor’s claims are governed by different rules than settlement of adults’ claims. I will discuss these issues in a subsequent post.