Accidents are a difficult experience, and the last thing that survivors want to think about are legal issues as they recover from injuries. However, like many other states, Pennsylvania has laws that limit a person’s ability to pursue damages from responsible parties after a certain amount of time. So, those who need financial compensation for losses caused by an accident must enlist the help of a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitation for Personal Injury Claims
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a law that dictates how long a person must make a legal claim against others. In the case of personal injury, this law limits how long a person must hold the person who caused their accident accountable for their negligence. If a person fails to file a claim before time runs out, they will be unable to do so no matter how severe their injury or losses are. Depending on the matter in question, a person will have a varying amount of time to file a claim according to the relevant statute of limitations.
In Pennsylvania, the time limit for personal injury cases is two years from the date of the accident. If a person wishes to file a claim against a county, city, or state government then they must send notice of an intent to sue within six months of an incident.
Shared Fault in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania requires plaintiffs and defendants to share the fault of an accident when possible. This means that a person might not be able to collect all damages rewarded after a claim if they were partially at fault for an accident. The state requires a person to pay a percentage of their settlement to the other party for their part in causing an accident. Specifically, Pennsylvania follows what is known as a modified comparative negligence rule.
Under modified comparative negligence, parties are entitled to the amount of compensation equal to the percentage of fault they have for an accident. If a party is more than 50 percent responsible for an accident, they cannot collect any damages from other parties. For example, if a person is injured in a car accident, but a court found them to be 45 percent at fault for a car accident, they will receive 55 percent of the settlement for the accident. So, a settlement of $100,000 would be reduced to 55,000 because of shared fault rules.
Time Limits for Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawsuits
Every state has a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time a person can file an injury lawsuit. This ensures that parties do not come back years or decades later after memories and evidence has faded to assert a claim. While this may protect defendants from being sued years later, it does put the burden on an accident victim to act quickly in order to receive compensation for his or her injuries. If you fail to file a personal injury lawsuit before the deadline in Pennsylvania's statute of limitations, you will be unable to receive compensation for your damages, losses, and injuries.
Examples of time limits for filing personal injury lawsuits include:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents - 2 years
- Premises Liability (i.e. slip and fall accidents) - 2 years
- Product Liability (i.e. defective drugs, dangerous products, etc.) - 2 years
- Wrongful Death - 2 years
- Medical Malpractice - 2 years
- Bicycle Crashes - 2 years
- Pedestrian Accidents - 2 years
As you can see, most injury lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of the injury; however, there are exceptions. For this reason, do not ever assume you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit without consulting with an injury attorney. Other exemptions may apply depending on the circumstances and facts of your case.
Exceptions to Pennsylvania's Statute of Limitations
There are several exceptions to the general two-year rule for filing a Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit. For example, if you are filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the deadline for filing may be extended if you did not discover the injury until much later after the actual event. Another exception is when a minor is injured. The un-emancipated minor has two years after his or her 18th birthday to file an injury lawsuit.
How Statutes of Limitations Affect Insurance Claims
In many cases, the insurance company for the at-fault party will negotiate a settlement of your injury claim without the necessity of filing an injury lawsuit. However, this is not always the case. Insurance companies will try to do everything within their power to limit the amount of money it must pay to settle an accident claim. Therefore, it may be necessary to file an injury lawsuit to ensure you receive a fair and just settlement. For this reason, it is important to consult with a Harrisburg personal injury attorney as soon as possible after you are injured because you only have a limited amount of time to file an injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania.
Does Pennsylvania Cap Personal Injury Damages?
The state of Pennsylvania protects those suffering from others in its constitution. According to the state’s constitution, cases involving injury or death do not have limitations on damages a person can recover. However, the state does limit the amount of punitive damages, or the amount a court orders a defendant to pay as a punishment rather than for damages. The state limits punitive damages to twice the amount of damages the defendant is already paying.
If you have concerns about your case, call our Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys today at (888) 498-3023. An initial consultation with a member of our team is free of charge!