No matter what type of accident you might have had in which you were injured because of the actions of another person or entity, you might be considering filing a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania. If you decide to file a claim in the civil court system, it is important to understand the statute of limitations that applies to it. At DiCindio Law, we can help people who have been injured by the wrongful or negligent actions of others to file their claims within the limitations period so their rights to recovery might be preserved.
What is a statute of limitations?
Pennsylvania and all other states have statutes of limitations. These are laws that specify a time limit for filing different types of claims. The time within which the claims must be filed is called the limitations period. Claims that are filed outside of the limitations period will be dismissed, meaning that the victims will be prevented from recovering compensation for their losses. This makes knowing the statute of limitations for your particular type of claim important so that you can make certain to comply with it. If you fail to follow the statute of limitations, you may be permanently barred from recovering the damages to which you would otherwise be entitled.
Personal injury statute of limitations in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania statute of limitations for personal injury claims is found at 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5542. Under this law, you have two years to file a personal injury action to recover damages for your injuries or for the wrongful death of your loved one that results from the negligence or wrongful conduct of someone else.
The two-year statute of limitations applies to most types of personal injury claims, including those that are based on negligence and those that are based on intentional conduct. Intentional torts include civil assaults, civil batteries, and other intentional actions.
The clock on the limitations period begins from the date of your injury accident. If you have been injured because of the actions or negligence of someone else, you will have two years to file the civil complaint and other required documents to commence your lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, your lawsuit will be dismissed.
What happens when people miss the deadline?
If you wait to file a lawsuit until more than two years have passed since your accident, the defendant will likely file a motion to dismiss. He or she will explain to the court that you have filed your complaint outside of the limitations period. Unless an exception provides you with more time to file, the court will dismiss your claim. If your claim is dismissed, you will lose your right to ask for an award of damages for your injuries from the court. It will not matter how much you have lost or how significant your injuries might be. It also won’t matter if the defendant’s liability is clear.
This makes the personal injury statute of limitations pivotal when you want to file a formal lawsuit against the responsible party or parties. It is also important when you want to negotiate with the insurance company or the defendant for damages outside of the court process. If the insurance company or defendant knows that you are outside of the two-year statute of limitations, there will be little incentive for a settlement agreement. You will not have any leverage over the defendant to threaten to file a lawsuit against him or her.
Exceptions to the personal injury statute of limitations in Pennsylvania
While the personal injury statute of limitations is strictly enforced in Pennsylvania, there are a few scenarios that might toll the running of the clock and expand the filing deadline period. Some of the examples of exceptions that can modify the limitations period include the following:
- The injured victim was a minor who was not legally emancipated at the time of the accident that caused his or her injuries. In this situation, the clock won’t begin to run until the injured victim reaches age 18 under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5533.
- The defendant is outside of Pennsylvania for more than four months after the accident and before the lawsuit is filed or hides his or her presence in the state by using a fake name under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5532.
In the case of concealment or absence, the time during which the person was absent or hidden will likely not count against the running of the limitations period.
Lawsuits against the government
If the responsible party in your injury accident is a governmental entity, the limitations period is quite different. For example, if you had a slip and fall injury accident while you were visiting the premises of a government agency, a different statute of limitations applies. Under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5522, people who intend to file claims against the government must send notices to it within six months of the date that they were injured in the accidents. If you fail to send the required notice, any lawsuit that you might later file against the government will likely be dismissed.
When should you contact an attorney?
The statutes of limitation in Pennsylvania provide hard deadlines within which you must file a formal lawsuit against the negligent or wrongful actors who caused your injuries. While these limitations periods give you an idea of the maximum amount of time that you can wait to file a lawsuit, you should talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your injury occurred. Talking to a lawyer early can help you to preserve evidence that could otherwise be lost. In some cases, the government may hold partial liability for an accident, meaning that you might need to file a notice much earlier than the two-year statute of limitations for a personal injury claim.
Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at (610)430-3535. You can also fill in your information in our online contact form to request a consultation.