How Pennsylvania Statutes Impact Personal Injury Claims
Have you suffered a serious injury in Philadelphia, PA? You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and suffering. Whether you’re submitting a claim to an insurance company or filing a lawsuit, it’s important to understand how the laws of the state of Pennsylvania will affect your pursuit of compensation.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the statutes that will likely be most relevant to your personal injury claim and how they might affect your case.
What is a Statute?
Statutes are written laws passed by a legislative body. Pennsylvania was the last state in the country to publish its statutes online for people to search, without buying bound books or visiting a law library. The state has 79 groups of consolidated statutes, including titles such as:
- Banks and Banking
- Burial Grounds
- Community Affairs
- Crimes and Offenses
- Eminent Domain
- Highways and Bridges
- Law and Justice
- Mines and Mining
- Zoning and Planning.
If you are involved in a serious accident in Pennsylvania, statutes may apply that restrict who you can sue and when specifically, you must file a claim by.
Statutes Place Limits on How Much Time You Have To File A Personal Injury Lawsuit
Like every state in the country, Pennsylvania has strict laws that dictate how much time you have to bring a personal injury lawsuit, called a Statute of Limitations. Each state has different time windows, ranging from just one year (Kentucky and Tennessee) to as many as six years (North Dakota and Maine).
The Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania applies to most lawsuits. You have two years from the date of an accident or injury to file an action to recover damages. This applies to both personal injuries and wrongful deaths. There are a few exceptions, which include:
- Childhood sexual abuse: Victims who were under age 18 when the abuse occurred have 12 years after their 18th birthday to file a civil claim.
- Construction Projects: Claims against a person (architect, engineer, builder, etc.) for having deficiently performed, designed, planned, or supervised a construction project must be brought within 12 years from the completion of the construction project.
The Statute of Limitation “clock” may be paused if the person who injured you is outside the Commonwealth and cannot be served with legal process.
Pennsylvania statutes and rules are littered with exceptions and complicated even for practicing attorneys. At Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, we encourage anyone considering a personal injury or wrongful death claim to contact us as soon as possible. This is the best scenario for preserving important evidence and making sure mandatory filing and claim deadlines are met.
What Does a Statute of Limitations Apply To?
While we often think of personal injury lawyers for car accidents, a personal injury lawyer can help in any serious accident or injury caused by another person or company’s negligence. Types of accidents may include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Trucking accidents
- Construction accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Dog bites/animal attacks
- Accidents are caused by dangerous or defective products.
If another party’s negligence or reckless actions caused your injuries, contributed to your injuries, or a loved one’s wrongful death, you may pursue a personal injury claim for your physical, emotional, and financial harm.
A Statute of Limitations is really only relevant once a time period has passed. Once the time period has passed, the court will reject any claims relating to the accident. Although claims are often settled between parties without a lawsuit even being filed, defense counsels are well aware of the Statutes of Limitations. Any efforts to settle once the Statute of Limitations expires will almost certainly be unsuccessful.
Pennsylvania Statutes Limiting Who You Can File A Lawsuit Against
Pennsylvania has enacted a number of statutes or immunities restricting who you may or may not bring a claim against. Examples of these restrictions include:
- You typically cannot sue Good Samaritans, first responders like EMTs or paramedics, or school officials/employees for injuries you suffered while they were giving you first aid. However, a driver of an ambulance is not relieved from liability.
- You typically cannot sue youth sports volunteers (for example, a coach or umpire) for injuries your child suffered while participating in a sport. Exceptions exist for injuries occurring during transportation or on a property.
- You typically cannot sue someone who injured you while acting in self-defense of their property.
- You typically cannot sue the owner of the property you were using for recreational purposes for failing to warn you about dangerous conditions.
Many of these statutes have exceptions and in some cases, multiple parties are liable for an injury. Before you decide whether or not you may have a claim for your injuries, talk to an experienced lawyer familiar with Pennsylvania laws.
Lawsuits Against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Public Agencies, or Municipalities
If you or someone you love is injured in a car accident with a government or law enforcement vehicle, on state property, at a public school, or on a city bus, you may have a lawsuit against a government agency.
Pennsylvania, along with Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Virginia, is officially a “Commonwealth” and has laws heavily influenced by English common law. Civil lawsuits against the “state” of Pennsylvania are filed against the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania laws impose various restrictions on cases against the state, public agencies, or local government agencies.
Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 5522, you must notify the agency and all involved government parties. Your notice must include:
- Name and residence address of the claimant
- Date, hour, and approximate location of the accident, and
- Name and residence or office address of any attending physician.
Not sending this mandatory written notice within six months will likely result in the court dismissing any lawsuit that you later try to file over the incident.
In Pennsylvania, there is a cap (limit) of $250,000 per occurrence and $1,000,000 total in personal injury claims against the Commonwealth. There is also a damages cap of $500,000 total on claims against local government agencies, such as parks and recreation departments, police departments, fire departments, and public transportation services.
What If You Are Partially At Fault for an Accident In Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is one of 21 states that follows a modified comparative fault rule, sometimes referred to as a “51% Rule.” If you are 51% or more at fault for an accident, you cannot recover damages in a claim. In other words, you can recover damages from the defendant only if your percentage of fault is 50% or less.
For example, if you are 25% responsible for an accident, your damages will be reduced by 25%. The official rule is in Section 7102 of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which states that “the fact that the plaintiff may have been guilty of contributory negligence shall not bar a recovery by the plaintiff or his legal representative.”
Pennsylvania statute specifically precludes defendants from offering evidence that the plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.
Being partially at fault does not mean you cannot recover money for your injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney can review the accident report and, if warranted, arrange an independent investigation or the crash to determine fault and potential liability.
Talk To A Personal Injury Lawyer Following an Accident in Pennsylvania
The first step to recovering compensation following a car accident is retaining a skilled and knowledgeable Pennsylvania personal injury attorney. Civil lawsuits are subject to procedural requirements and strict time limits. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner your attorney can help you take action.
The Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, have more than 80 years of combined experience representing personal injury victims in claims involving car accidents, construction accidents, and accidents at work. Our firm has been helping accident victims throughout Philadelphia and surrounding areas since 1985.
We are extremely familiar with statutes and regulations that will affect your case. Before you accept any compensation offer for your injuries, speak with a lawyer at our firm. We never charge any fees to review your case and are only paid if we recover money for you.