Across the US, those who have been injured in an accident or who have lost a beloved family member through the actions or negligence of a third party have the option of seeking compensation for their injuries or loss in a court of law. However, although the right to seek reparation extends to all US residents, each state imposes its own rules, regulations and limitations on personal injury law suits.
It is therefore important to understand what state laws might impact on your claim and, in the case of our law firm, specifically how a personal injury law firm in Washington and Oregon might be limited or guided by these laws.
Statute of Limitations – Time is of the Essence
Regardless of how grievous the injury, every state has a time limit on personal injury claims. If the case is not filed within this time, then it will be dismissed out of hand.
In Washington, the statute of limitations in a personal injury case is 3 years from the date of the accident. In Oregon, it is only two year but three years in the case of a wrongful death.
Note that as it says above, the clock starts ticking on the day of the accident. That means, for example, that if a car accident causes a soft tissue injury which does not show up for months, it is essential that the claim be filed within three years of the accident (in the case of Washington) not three years from the date of the onset of the injury.
Compensation Cap Differences Between States
While some states place an upper limit on the amount of compensation paid out for personal injury claims, Washington deems this to be unconstitutional. There are therefore no caps on the amount of the claim that can be sought.
In Oregon however, there is a cap on non-economic damages in the case of a wrongful death at $500,000 though not on other personal injury claims.
Attorney Scott Edwards notes that “people get in wrecks the same in Washington as they do in Oregon–both states have negligent drivers. Knowing the differences in the applicable law however is critical to ensuring that one's rights are protected to the greatest extent allowable by law. Because our firm practices in both Washington and Oregon, we are well versed in the differences, and the similarities, between each state.”
Shared Fault Rules… Can Apply to the Victim
Often a personal injury case will not be 100% cut and dried. The defending party may make the claim that in fact, the victim was at least partially responsible. In Washington, a ‘pure comparative negligence' judgement will be applied, reducing the amount of the compensation by the percentage of responsibility assigned to the injured party.
By contrast, in Oregon, they apply the modified comparative negligence rule. It works the same as in Washington except that if your portion of blame is deemed to be over 50% you will not be entitled to claim any compensation at all from the negligent parties.
Clearly, if you live in the area, it is important to seek the professional counsel of a personal law firm in Washington or Oregon.