Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Philadelphia
All states in the country, including Pennsylvania, have laws on how long you have to file a lawsuit as the victim of an accident due to someone else’s negligence.
The personal injury statute of limitations has a considerable impact on your rights, as it puts your rights at risk if you do not take actions within the relevant period.
Though you should trust an experienced personal injury attorney for a more detailed explanation, some answers to common questions may help.
How does a statute of limitations work?
A statute of limitations is a window that allows a party a certain time to sue in court.
There is a personal injury statute of limitations that applies when someone is injured in various types of accidents. Under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations, you have two years to file a lawsuit against the person/entity responsible for causing your injuries.
The clock starts to run the date of your accident, subject to some limited exceptions described below.
Why is there a personal injury statute of limitations in Pennsylvania?
The purpose behind enacting a statute of limitations is to do equity, with three specific considerations:
- The time restriction motivates a plaintiff with a valid legal claim to diligently pursue it. Otherwise, a potential defendant is in a state of limbo, wondering if he or she will be sued for a personal injury case.
- A statute of limitations protects against loss of evidence. By forcing a plaintiff to take action within two years, it is less likely that evidence will be destroyed, damaged, or misplaced.
- Enacting a personal injury statute of limitations allows for more credible, solid witness testimony. They may not recall key details of an accident when too much time has passed.
What kinds of cases are covered under the personal injury statute of limitation?
Almost any accident or negligent act that results in injuries is subject to the two-year statute of limitations. Therefore, it applies to:
- Auto, truck, motorcycle, and other types of motor vehicle accidents;
- Pedestrian accidents;
- Any claim based upon premises liability, which refers to injuries a victim may suffer due to a dangerous condition existing on the property;
- Medical malpractice, errors, and mistakes;
- Nursing home injuries, abuse, and neglect;
- Birth injuries;
- Burn injuries;
- Construction accidents;
- Dog bites; and
- Brain injuries;
- Injuries that result from defective products or dangerous drugs;
- Intentional conduct, such as assault and battery;
- Any of the above types of accidents that cause a fatality termed “wrongful death claims under Pennsylvania law; and,
- Many other claims.
Are there exceptions to the personal injury statute of limitations?
Yes, there are circumstances under which the personal injury statute of limitations does not apply or is extended.
- The Discovery Rule: This legal concept describes a situation where the victim either:
- Does not realize that he or she has been injured due to another person’s negligence; or,
- Does not know that the individual’s negligent act caused the injuries.
In both scenarios, the victim cannot file a lawsuit because he or she has not discovered facts that would support a claim.
The Discovery Rule is most often used in connection with medical malpractice actions, where the patient may not be aware of a cause of action until after the two-year statute of limitations has expired.
- Other Cases That Toll the Statute of Limitations: You may have additional time to file a lawsuit, even beyond the two-year window, if you were a minor, mentally ill, disabled, or otherwise did not have the legal capacity to act. If you are a minor (under the age of 18), the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of 18. Therefore, a minor has two years from the date of his/her 18th birthdate to file a lawsuit in court for personal injuries.
If any of the above situations applies in your case, you may still be able to file a lawsuit in court even after the two-year statute of limitations expires.
Do I need to file a lawsuit right away?
Though you should definitely keep the personal injury statute of limitations in mind, you do not need to sue the negligent party within days after an accident.
In fact, in most cases, you initiate the legal process by filing a claim with an insurance company.
If you are not able to reach an agreement to settle your claim, you must then file a lawsuit to seek compensation for your losses.
What happens if I sue after the personal injury statute of limitations expires?
Generally, your case will be thrown out of court if you wait beyond the two-year time window.
The defendant will most certainly raise the statute of limitations as a defense and, unless you can prove that your case falls within one of the very limited exceptions, you will have no right to pursue the cause.
Discuss Pennsylvania’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations with a Skilled Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an accident and want to know more about the relevant time factors, please contact PhillyLaw at 215-515-2050 or fill out a form with the details of your case so we can get a free consultation set up to discuss next steps.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can review your claim and explain your legal options and rights to recover fair and just compensation for your injuries and harms.