How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
If you have been injured because of the negligent conduct of another party, you are entitled to seek compensation for the harm you suffered. However, because you can do something, does not mean you know how to do it. While many people will probably advise you to file a personal injury lawsuit, the necessary steps might not be clear.
The first step is to retain our Philadelphia personal injury attorney. The Reiff Law Firm has years of experience litigating complex personal injury claims. Below, we discuss what is involved with the preparation and filing a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania.
A successful personal injury claim requires compelling evidence and professional legal representation. You want an attorney willing to put in the hours to maximize your claim – not just settle for a quick offer. To discuss your case and options, call our law offices at (215) 709-6940.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Before a personal injury case can begin, you need an attorney. You have rights if you have been injured because of another’s negligence. Everyone has a friend or two that will recommend a lawyer if you were in a car accident. However, you have rights if you fell in a grocery store, were injured by a defective product, or tripped on a friend’s deck. Unforeseen injuries could easily result in a significant amount of medical expenses or missed time at work. You should not be responsible for everything if someone else was at fault. By speaking with our experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys, you will know if you have the grounds for an injury claim in court or a lucrative insurance settlement.
How Do Personal Injury Attorneys Get Paid?
You may think your injury is not worth the expense of hiring an attorney. In some situations, that is a correct assumption. If you bruised an elbow in a slip and fall accident, your injury might not require time-consuming and expensive litigation. However, what if that elbow injury turns out to be more serious? Our West Chester personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to help determine if you have legitimate grounds for a lawsuit. Furthermore, our firm typically works on a contingency fee. This means that we get paid if your claim is successful. There is no reason not to speak with someone from the Reiff Law Firm if you have been hurt because of another’s carelessness.
If You Had Injuries, Document Everything
A personal injury claim should begin the moment you are injured – even before you consider speaking with an attorney. The key element in a personal injury claim is the injury. Therefore, it is crucial that you begin documenting your injuries immediately following an accident. You should not hesitate in seeking medical treatment – even if you do not think the injury is serious. Complications could occur and you want to have medical records linking your injury to the accident or incident. If you are prescribed treatment, physical therapy, or medication, you should comply. Missing doctor’s appointments or failing to follow through on medical treatment could jeopardize your case.
Determine if You Were at Fault in Any Way
Before filing a personal injury lawsuit or attempting to settle your case with an insurance company, our Allentown personal injury attorneys will have to determine if you were at fault in any way. In many cases, a defendant is clearly to blame. For example, if you were sitting at a red light and a drunk driver rear-ended your car. Your conduct did not contribute to the accident or your injury. However, in other situations, an injured plaintiff did play on role in the incident. To illustrate this point, imagine you were speeding and your car was hit by a driver who was texting at the time of the accident. The other driver’s conduct was negligent. Nonetheless, speeding could also be construed as negligent behavior.
Determining fault is critical in a personal injury claim. If our office is unable to establish that another party caused your injury, you do not have grounds for a lawsuit. Furthermore, if you contributed to the accident or your injury, it will impact your potential compensation. A jury will be tasked with several questions at the end of a trial. One is the number of damages awarded to the plaintiff and another is the percentage of fault that should be assigned to each party.
Shared Fault Rules in Pennsylvania
The percentage of fault assigned to a plaintiff could result in their compensation being dramatically reduced or denied. Pennsylvania has a modified comparative negligent law. Under this law, a plaintiff is entitled to recover for their damages if they contributed to their injury. However, there are limitations.
As stated above, the jury will be asked to apportion a percentage of blame to each party. Returning to the car accident example above, a jury could find that that the driver who was texting was 60% at fault. They then decide that the speeding contributed 40% to the crash. If you were awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages, the amount would be reduced to $60,000 because of your role in the crash. If a jury determines that a plaintiff is 51% to blame, the plaintiff is prohibited from collecting any compensation from the defendant.
Our Bethlehem personal injury attorneys will have to take a realistic look at who caused your injury and your part in the accident. Otherwise, it will be impossible to prepare a lawsuit or negotiate with an insurance provider.
No-Fault Rules in Pennsylvania
When it comes to automobile accidents, Pennsylvania is a “no-fault” state. This means that all drivers are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. If you are injured in a car crash, no matter who is to blame, your medical costs will be paid by your insurance provider. Whether you have the ability to sue someone else if they caused the accident depends on the type of insurance you have. Pennsylvanians have the option to carry full tort or limited tort coverage. If you have full tort insurance coverage, you are allowed to bypass the “no-fault” laws and pursue damages against the negligent driver.
If you have limited tort coverage, you are disqualified from suing beyond a certain capped amount based on the terms of your policy. Simply put, if you have full tort coverage, you will be able to seek compensation for your total damages, including lost wages and pain and suffering. Before filing a lawsuit for injuries sustained in a car accident, it is critical to understand the terms of your insurance policy.
Once you have gone through the preliminary steps, it is time to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Deadline to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
You do not have an indefinite period to file a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania. The statute of limitations governs the deadline to file a claim following an injury. Pennsylvania law requires a personal injury lawsuit to be filed within two years of the incident that caused the harm.
This deadline does not mean that your case must be completed in two years, but you must have your claim filed with the court. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for Pennsylvanians to miss this deadline. They might be working with an insurance company that is purposefully extending the process. Sometimes a person is just procrastinating moving forward with legal action because they are focusing on their medical treatment. You should retain our Bucks County personal injury attorney immediately after suffering an injury. Our office will ensure that no deadlines are missed and work to preserve crucial evidence that could be unavailable if you delay.
How a Personal Injury Lawsuit Works in Pennsylvania
No matter your injury, there are some basic steps every Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit follows. First, you must have been injured. If you were in a car accident but were unhurt, you probably do not have a basis for a personal injury lawsuit. Next, you should hire our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer to start preparing your case, including collecting physical evidence, medical reports, and witness testimony.
After the initial evidence is reviewed and evaluated, our law firm will draft the complaint. The complaint includes a statement of what occurred, the defendant, the compensation being sought, and the legal basis for the lawsuit.
Next, the complaint is served to the defendant. Served means that the person you are suing is physically handed a copy of the complaint. Under some circumstances, this might be accomplished through the mail. This is the official beginning of your lawsuit.
Typically, once the complaint is served, the defendant will file a response with the court. The response will answer every fact alleged in the complaint, either admitting it, denying it, or stating an answer is not required. The defendant will list any defenses they have and might file a counter-claim asserting that you were at fault. It is critical to have an experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorney working on your case due to the complexities of litigation.
Before your case goes to trial, there are a number of other things that occur. First, both sides might file pre-trial motions. If the defendant believes that your complaint fails to state a legal basis for a lawsuit or if the stated facts do not establish negligence, a motion to dismiss the case could be filed. On the other hand, if our Pennsylvania personal injury attorney feels that the supporting facts establish a clear victory, a motion for summary judgment might be filed.
In a personal injury lawsuit, both sides are required to share the evidence they have. Known as discovery, this is often done by filing interrogatories and a request for the production of documents. Interrogatories are written questions that require a response. The request for documents is just what it sounds like, a formal request for emails, receipts, reports, bank statements, medical records, or any other material that is relevant to the case. In many cases, the plaintiff, defendant, and other parties, such as witnesses, could be deposed. A deposition is a formal questioning of an individual under oath. Our experienced Chester PA personal injury attorney will aggressively pursue all the relevant evidence and is skilled at drafting interrogatories and conducting depositions. In many cases, it is the quality of the evidence that determines the verdict.
Trial or Settlement
Once both sides have filed their pre-trial motions and gathered all the evidence, the case could proceed to trial. It is not uncommon at this point in the process for a settlement offer to be put on the table. If that happens, our Pennsylvania personal injury attorney will review the offer, the amount you are seeking, and the strength of your case to advise you on how you should proceed. No matter what our office says, the final decision is yours.
If you wish to proceed to trial, each side will present their case to the judge or jury. Our office will present the physical evidence and question any witnesses or experts. The defendant will do the same. Depending on the type of trial, a judge or jury will render a verdict and a compensation award if you prevail.
To File a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Contact Our Pennsylvania Attorney
Personal injury litigation is complicated. If you have suffered physical harm and financial losses due to another’s negligent conduct, you deserve to be compensated. To ensure your case is handled professionally and vigorously fought, you need our knowledgeable Pennsylvania personal injury attorney. You do not get multiple chances to file a personal injury lawsuit – you want it done right. Call the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940 to schedule a free consultation to review the steps necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit.