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What is the Statute of Limitations for a Personal Injury Case in Pennsylvania?

May 16, 2019

Suffering a personal injury not only be traumatizing and painful, dealing with the legal side of the injury can be completely inconvenient and one more thing in an individual's life that they have to deal with. After a personal injury, insurance companies need to be notified, doctor's visits need to be attended, and a plan for going back to work needs to be solved.

Trying to file one's own personal injury case will not assist in the healing time needed after an accident, this is why a personal injury attorney is crucial when you are injured due to someone else's negligence. The reason you need to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible is that once the accident occurred, the statute of limitations is "tolled." As described below, the statute of limitations is a countdown for an injured party to file a case against the offender. Once the time is up, a court in Pennsylvania will not consider your case.

Defining the statute of limitations

In every state, there are certain timelines for different types of lawsuits that dictate how long the client and their personal injury attorney has to file a claim on the client's behalf. For personal injury suits, the states set a period of years in which they must file a claim. The typical time period for most personal injury cases is two years.

Pennsylvania statute of limitations

The statute of limitations is enumerated in Pennsylvania Statutes Chapter 42 section 5524, that sets a two-year statute of limitation, starting from the date of the accident, for any personal injury that occurred as a result of an accident and any property damage related to the accident. The statute exact language is as follows:

"[A]n action to recover damages for injuries to the person or for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another."

It is important to note that the duty to report a claim or accident to the insurance company is not governed by the state law of statute of limitations. Even though the client has two years to file a case in civil court, most insurance agencies require notice “as soon as reasonably possible” or promptly. This means that the personal injury attorney should let the insurance company know as soon as possible that an accident occurred with injury and property damage.

In some cases, it may take days or weeks for an injury to present itself. Insurance companies are also notorious for dragging out the claim and avoiding a settlement right away. Between injuries that present late and a slow-moving insurance process, it is easy to see why the statute of limitations is so important to be aware of; hiring an experienced personal injury attorney as close to the date of the car accident is extremely important in order to preserve the client's rights and file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs.

Government entities

An exception to the statute of limitations is if the car accident involves a government entity, which requires a different set of laws and procedures to follow. A claimant only has six months to file a claim of intent to sue against a city, county, or state government agency. It can be difficult to determine if the accident did, in fact, involve a government entity. This serves to illustrate how important it is to obtain professional representation as soon as possible after a car accident.

Oklahoma wrongful death claims

Unlike personal injury claims, wrongful death claims stemming from an accident have a different timeline for filing claims. Under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8301 et seq., a family member of the individual can sue if the victim died as a result of a personal injury accident, which includes bringing a wrongful death claim. The claim can be filed as soon as the victim has passed from those injuries. It is common that the date of the individual's death is later than the date of the accident, thus the clock does not start running until the victim's death.

Family members have two years from the date of death, not the date of the accident, to file a wrongful death claim. However, this timeline is established only concerning a claim. Only a spouse, children, or parents of the victim can be awarded a wrongful death settlement.

A personal injury case is not something to take lightly. Personal injury attorneys have attended rigorous schools and practiced for years understanding the law, how it is applied, and how to expertly advocate for their client. To ensure a successful outcome and not miss your opportunity to be fairly compensated, consult with a personal injury attorney if you are injured.

Contact us here for more information from Kim A. Bodnar, Attorney at Law or to schedule a consultation in our office in Pittsburgh.

NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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