How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in PA?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, a slip and fall, or otherwise as a result of someone else’s negligence, it’s important to act quickly to protect your legal rights. You do not have an unlimited amount of time to file a lawsuit or otherwise seek compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. If you wait too long, your case might be dismissed as untimely. To avoid paying out of pocket for the damages you suffered as a result of someone’s negligent conduct in Philadelphia, reach out to a seasoned Chestnut Hill car crash lawyer as soon as practicable after an accident. Read on below to learn about the time limit for filing a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania.
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in PA
Nearly every type of legal claim, including both civil and criminal claims, has a time limit. This time limit is known as the “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations is meant to ensure that the evidence relevant to the case can still be found, as evidence can disappear over time and witness memories can fade. The time limit also ensures that defendants are not left with the specter of potential liability decades down the line. If you file a lawsuit based on a claim that is past the limitations period, your claim can be dismissed regardless of how strong your case is.
The statute of limitations for a given legal claim varies depending upon the nature of the claim, the law of the state in which the claim is brought, and certain other circumstances. In Pennsylvania, the general statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two years. The two-year time limit applies for car accident injury claims, product liability claims, medical malpractice, and a wide variety of other types of personal injury claims. That means that if you were injured in an auto accident or other situation caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or malicious conduct, you typically have two years to bring your claim. If you wait longer than two years, you could lose out on your chance to recover damages.
When Does the Clock Start Ticking?
The limitations period for personal injury claims typically starts on the date the incident occurred. Personal injury victims have two years from the date on which they either discovered or should have discovered that they were injured as a result of negligent conduct. In the case of a car accident, for example, the law presumes that accident victims should know that their injuries may have been caused by a negligent driver and should pursue their legal rights accordingly.
There are situations in which the two-year limitations period may start later, or it may be “tolled” for a period of time. Pennsylvania’s “discovery” rule states that the limitations period starts to run (i.e., the clock starts ticking) either when they actually discovered they were injured due to negligence, or on the date a reasonable person under the circumstances should have realized they were injured.
For example, a person may undergo a medical procedure and afterward experience no unusual symptoms. Years later, they notice unusual pain or other side effects and, after a follow-up examination, learn that the physician made a serious error. The patient now has a medical malpractice claim. Because they had no reason to know they were the victim of malpractice until the new side effects manifested, the limitations period does not start until the date they discovered unusual symptoms, or even until they received a follow-up diagnosis identifying the malpractice. The patient would have two years from that later date, rather than two years from the date of the original procedure, to file their claim.
Pennsylvania has imposed an outside limit of seven years to file a medical malpractice claim regardless of the date of discovery. This is known as a statute of “repose.”
Special Rules and Exceptions
Not every claim is subject to the general two-year statute of limitations. There may be a longer or shorter period, depending upon the circumstances of the injury and the nature of the parties.
If you intend to file a claim against a government agency, for example, you must give the government notice of your claim within six months. For instance, if you were hit by a city bus and intend to file a claim against the city transit authority, you would have six months from the date of the accident, rather than two years. The rules may differ depending upon whether the government had actual notice of the incident.
On the other hand, minors are afforded additional time to bring a personal injury claim. If the accident victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the incident, the statute of limitations does not start running until they turn 18. For example, if a victim was injured in a slip-and-fall at the age of 15, they would have until their 20th birthday to file a claim against the property owner. Given that witnesses can forget and evidence can go missing over time, it’s still a good idea to pursue a claim for damages sooner rather than later.
Other special rules may apply in your case. If you have a potential personal injury claim, call a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you do not lose out on your right to recovery.
Call for Experienced Legal Help With a Philadelphia Personal Injury Claim
If you or someone you love has been injured through someone else’s negligence in Pennsylvania, you need the help of a skilled and effective personal injury attorney to get the damages you deserve. Benedum Law founding attorney Christine Benedum has dedicated her career to fighting for accident victims and knows how to get her clients the compensation they deserve from those at fault. Contact a professional Philadelphia personal injury lawyer at Benedum Law in Chestnut Hill for a free consultation on your case at 215-529-7848 (215-LAWSUIT).