Understanding the Statute of Limitations and Your Personal Injury Case

Personal injury cases are civil matters related to an accident or injury. In many cases, the injury occurred because of negligence or other wrongdoing. If someone’s carelessness injured you, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages related to the accident. However, your time to pursue a legal claim is limited by Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. 

What is a Statute of Limitations and Why Does Pennsylvania Have One?

Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitation set deadlines for filing legal actions in Pennsylvania state courts, including personal injury lawsuits. There are statutes of limitations for criminal cases and civil cases. 

Pennsylvania has enacted statutes of limitations for several reasons, including:

  • It encourages injured persons to proceed with their personal injury case in timely manner
  • Limiting the amount of time to file a claim reduces the risk of lost or destroyed evidence
  • It prevents an injured party from abusing the judicial system by litigating an old matter

Accordingly, you lose your right to pursue a legal claim by failing to file a personal injury lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. The court will dismiss a late lawsuit unless there is an exception or extenuating circumstances. 

What are Pennsylvania’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases?

Generally, there is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Pennsylvania. The two-year deadline begins on the injury date. 

This statute of limitations involves:

However, there are exceptions to this general rule. 

Tolling of the Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania

Tolling the statute of limitations means that the time to file a lawsuit is paused. The result is a longer deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. 

Two situations that can result in tolling the statute of limitations include:

  • The injured victim was a minor who was not legally emancipated at the time of the injury. The statute of limitations “clock” begins when the child turns 18 years of age. 
  • The defendant has left Pennsylvania for more than four months after the cause of the injury and before the filing of a lawsuit or hides their presence in Pennsylvania by using a false name

Even though the statute of limitations might be tolled in these situations, it is best to speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. 

An attorney needs to review the entire facts and circumstances of a case to determine when the statute of limitations will begin to “run” again after being tolled. There could also be circumstances that could result in the deadline not being tolled.

Are There Different Deadlines for Suing the Government?

Yes, there are different deadlines for filing claims and lawsuits against the government. 

If your claim involves a city, county, or state government agency in Pennsylvania, you have just six months from the date of injury to file a notice of intent to sue. You would then have two years from the date of your injury to file your personal injury lawsuit against the government. Failing to send the required notice of intent would likely result in your lawsuit being dismissed.

What is the Discovery Rule?

The Discovery Rule could extend that statute of limitations in some instances. If your injury was not known and you could not have reasonably discovered the injury within the statute of limitations, your time to file a lawsuit could be extended.

Instead of the beginning date for the deadline being the date of your injury, it would be the date that you discovered the injury or should have reasonably discovered the injury. 

The Discovery rule can be crucial in medical malpractice cases. A person may not immediately know they sustained an injury because of medical negligence. It could take years for the injury or harm caused by medical negligence to be discovered. 

For example, a surgeon leaves an object inside your body. It could take more than two years for problems to arise. When you develop unexplained symptoms, it could take many months for a doctor to discover that a foreign object inside your body is causing the condition. 

For that reason, the Discovery Rule allows the victim to file claims within two years of the date of discovery of the injury or the date the person should have reasonably discovered the injury.

You must prove that you made a good faith effort to determine the cause of your injury. Unfortunately, for many people, proving reasonable diligence can be challenging. 

What Should You Do if You Sustain an Injury Caused by Another Party?

Immediate medical treatment is crucial to document the injury. In addition, you must be able to connect your injury to the defendant’s actions to recover compensation for your claim.

As soon as possible, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case. Two years may sound like a long time to file a personal injury lawsuit. 

However, many injury cases involve complicated issues. It could take several months or more than a year to complete an investigation to gather enough evidence to prove fault and liability.

Furthermore, expert witnesses might be necessary to help support your claim. However, it takes time to retain experts. The experts then need time to investigate and research your case to provide answers and evidence.

Because there are exceptions to the statutes of limitations, it is wise to have a lawyer analyze and research the matter to calculate the deadline for filing personal injury lawsuits in Pennsylvania. 

Missing a deadline could result in your case being thrown out of court. If that happens, you are responsible for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. In addition, you lose the right to hold the party who caused your injury responsible for your losses and injuries. 

Call Our Harrisburg Personal Injury Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation 

The Harrisburg personal injury lawyers at Marzzacco Niven & Associates want to help you with your personal injury claim. Contact or call (717) 231-1640 our law firm to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Harrisburg personal injury attorney.