What Is the Discovery Rule in Personal Injury Law

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One of the most important legal concepts to navigate during the course of a personal injury lawsuit is the statute of limitations for the claim. A statute of limitations is essentially a time limit in which a claimant must take legal action for a personal injury.

In Oregon, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years*, starting on the date the injury occurred. If potential plaintiffs fail to take legal action in this time, they may miss the chance to secure compensation for the damages incurred from the incident in question. However, there is one exception to the statute of limitations, which is the discovery rule.

What Is the Discovery Rule?

The law recognizes the fact that sometimes the damage from a personal injury is not immediately detectable. It is not uncommon for individuals to suffer injuries without realizing the damage for many months or even years after the injury-causing incident has occurred. Without the discovery rule, a potential plaintiff could lose their chance at recovery if the statute of limitations passes before their symptoms and damages are recognizable.

The discovery rule effectively pushes back the start of the statute of limitations to the date the plaintiff discovered or reasonably should have discovered the damages from a personal injury. For example, if a plaintiff was exposed to radiation in the workplace due to the negligent actions of another party and developed cancer, the symptoms may not be immediately recognizable. If symptoms did not appear until after two years had passed, the discovery rule would allow the statute of limitations to begin on the date the plaintiff identified symptoms.  Generally, the discovery rule only comes into play in medical malpractice and product liability claims, but there may be others.

Find Reliable Legal Counsel

Suffering a personal injury and being unable to recognize the effects of the incident for many years can be a jarring and stressful experience. Some people injured in this manner may think they have lost their chance at securing recovery with personal injury lawsuits, but this is not always the case. Contact Shlesinger & deVilleneuve today if you have any questions about the statute of limitations or the discovery rule for an Oregon personal injury claim.

*There are several exceptions to this such as wrongful death claims and claims against public bodies.  You should always consult an attorney to determine the actual statute of limitations that applies to your specific case.

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