The Statute of Limitations on Car Accident Injury Claims in Pennsylvania
Car accidents are a leading cause of injuries in the United States and Pennsylvania is no exception. In 2016, there were 129,395 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,188 people and injured another 82,971 people. Each day, there are approximately 355 reportable traffic crashes, with 227 people injured. Everyone should be entitled to seek compensation for the injuries they sustained in a car accident, but unfortunately many Pennsylvania residents are not aware of the different laws and statutes of limitations that come into play when bringing car accident claims. The relevant laws differ depending on the type of claim, and the compensation received by victims can also vary depending on the facts of the case. It’s essential to work with an experienced car accident attorney to maximize recovery.
At The Reiff Law Firm, our attorneys have over three decades of experience representing the rights of those who have been injured in car accidents. We can deliver on-point, strategic guidance on the proper type of claim to bring, as well as aggressive representation to those who need it. We have the experience and skill it takes to hold third parties responsible and get you the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, call (215) 709-6940 to speak with one of our Philadelphia car accident attorneys today. We offer a confidential consultation completely free of charge.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Car Accident Lawsuits in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the date of injury. A statute of limitation is a law passed by a legislative body to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. When the statute of limitations has expired, a claim will likely be time-barred and denied, unless an exception applies.
It’s important to keep in mind who the other parties to the lawsuit are, as the answer may change the applicable statute. If you are suing an individual, the 2-year SOL applies, but for injury claims against a city, county, or state government agency, a notice of intent to sue must be filed within 6 months. It is essential to be aware of these statutes. If you fail to get your lawsuit filed before the end of the two-year period, your right to compensation will be lost.
What Happens if I Miss the Deadline?
It’s important to take the statute of limitations seriously and abide by the deadline it sets. If you do not file your case with help from a car accident attorney before the statute of limitations elapses – in other words, runs out of time – your claim will be “barred,” which means you will lose your right to file. If that happens, your legal options will be severely limited, and you will lose your ability to pursue certain types of compensation.
In order to preserve your own legal rights and prevent these sorts of outcomes, which have long-term financial consequences, it is vital to discuss your options with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on how and why your crash occurred, you may have a strong claim against one or more parties. By listening to your description of what took place, an attorney can determine whether you might have an auto accident claim. If you or one of your family members was injured in a car crash in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, the auto accident lawyers of the Reiff Law Firm are here to offer legal guidance 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Are There Any Exceptions that Extend the Statute of Limitations?
An exception known as the “discovery rule” can extend the statute of limitations, but only under specific circumstances which generally do not apply in car accident cases. The discovery rule is only applicable in situations where there is a significant delay between infliction of the injury and discovery of the injury.
This type of scenario usually involves medical malpractice – not an automotive accident. For instance, the discovery rule might arise in a situation where a doctor fails to diagnose a serious condition, or in a case where a surgeon accidentally leaves gauze inside of a patient. In these types of scenarios, it may take months or, in some cases, even years for a serious illness or injury to become apparent. The discovery rule protects the rights of negligence victims in such situations.
When a car accident occurs, the injuries are usually instant and obvious. For example, victims often sustain injuries like cuts and bone fractures. Even car accident injuries that are not immediately obvious, such as whiplash injuries, usually become apparent within several days to several weeks of the accident. The discovery rule does not apply when injuries are obvious right away.
What Happens if You Get Into an Accident in Pennsylvania as an Out-of-State Driver?
Many people travel through Pennsylvania every day, moving from one neighboring state to another. If you are an out-of-state driver and are involved in an accident in the Keystone State, you should contact our experienced Berks County car accident lawyers.
One question that will commonly arise is, “where do you file a personal injury claim?” Typically, a plaintiff is permitted to file a claim in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred or where the defendant resides. Therefore, if you are a New Jersey driver who was hit by a Maryland resident while driving through Philadelphia, you could file a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania or Maryland. However, the jurisdiction is only half the question.
When an accident includes out-of-state drivers, the question of what law should apply arises. Typically, the state law where the accident occurred will govern. This presumption could be overcome – but it is difficult. A Maryland defendant might fight to have Maryland law apply because of the state’s harsh contributory negligence doctrine. Our local and knowledgeable Allentown car accident attorneys could prove invaluable in navigating the local laws and procedures.
Another question that concerns accident victims is, “where should they file their insurance claim?” Legal jurisdictions or state boundaries do not bind insurance policies, so the process remains relatively the same wherever an accident occurred. Nonetheless, you do not want to rely on an insurance settlement when you could have a valid personal injury claim. Having local counsel to help you calculate your potential damages and determine the legal strength of your case is critical when negotiating with an insurance company.
What are the Insurance Regulations for Drivers in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania follows the no-fault system when it comes to car accidents. This essentially means that you cannot hold the other driver liable after the accident unless your case meets a “serious injury” threshold. After most minor accidents, an injured person’s own car insurance provider will provide coverage for medical expenses and lost income. Even though one driver may actually be at fault in a technical sense, legally it does not matter who was at fault.
However, it is possible to file a liability claim alleging fault against the other driver in some situations. If you can demonstrate “serious injury,” as mentioned above, you may be able to overcome the no-fault rules. An experienced car accident injury attorney can help you determine whether a court would view your injuries as serious and your likelihood of being able to step outside the no-fault rules.
Pennsylvania Shared Fault Rules
In certain personal injury cases, the person or business that you are filing a claim against can argue, under the doctrine of comparative negligence, that you are at least partially to blame for the incident that led to your injuries. If the court finds that you were to blame for your injury, the amount you are able to recover will be reduced by a certain percentage. Pennsylvania follows the modified comparative negligence rule, which means that the injured party will always recover something. This is in contrast to pure comparative negligence states, in which a person found at all responsible for their own injuries will be barred from recovering anything. Pennsylvania courts are obligated to follow this rule in an injury lawsuit that makes it to trial.
Under Pennsylvania law, drivers in Philadelphia must carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage.
- $15,000 for bodily injury per person
- $30,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $5,000 for property damage per accident
- $5,000 of First Party Medical Benefits per person
Full or Limited Tort
Drivers in Philadelphia also have the option of carrying full or limited tort insurance. While limited tort is typically less expensive, it also restricts an accident victim’s options if they are injured.
Under full tort coverage, an accident victim is entitled to sue an at-fault driver for pain and suffering in addition to their out-of-pocket expenses. Furthermore, the injured driver does not have to prove that their injuries surpassed a certain threshold. If a driver is carrying full tort insurance, they have the ability to seek compensation for all of their damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
On the other hand, limited tort restricts the type of damages an accident victim is permitted to seek in a personal injury claim. Damages are limited to a victim’s actual economic losses, including medical costs, lost wages, and other injury-related expenditures. With limit tort coverage, it is nearly impossible for an injured victim to sue for additional damages, such as pain and suffering.
Caps on Injury Damages in Pennsylvania
Fortunately, there is no cap on the types of damages an injured person can receive for cases involving injury and death. Under Pennsylvania’s state constitution, the only limitation on damages is the state’s cap on punitive damages (damages meant to punish the defendant). Punitive damages are limited to two times the amount of actual damages in a personal injury case.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Pennsylvania
To ensure the best chance of recovery, it’s important to take the proper steps immediately following a car accident in Pennsylvania. Taking all of these steps as quickly as possible will be in your best interest for staying within the statute of limitations:
- Take pictures of the car accident scene, including all vehicles involved and the damage to your car.
- Review your insurance coverage, including the exclusions section, so you have a clear understanding of your coverage. Check for additional coverage under other insurance policies, such as homeowner and “umbrella” policies.
- Document conversations with the insurance company, including writing down names, phone numbers and job titles of the people with which you speak. Keep track of call times, subject matter and important information during phone calls.
- Seek medical treatment for injuries to identify any conditions, such as whiplash and soft tissue injuries, that may not become symptomatic until sometime after the accident.
- Document medical expenses, including medical bills, prescription costs and insurance co-pays. Out-of-pocket expenses related to medical care for your car accident injuries may be covered in some cases as well.
- Request medical records that are useful to prove injuries and preexisting conditions that may have been aggravated by the accident.
- Keep records of all accident-related items, including injuries and other related conversations, paperwork and expenses.
Retaining records and keeping everything organized is useful for any claims or lawsuits that result. It’s also beneficial to request multiple copies of documents for your attorney.
Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorney Today
Car accidents can be devastating to those involved. The injuries sustained in them can be serious, debilitating, and even fatal. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, contact the Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm. Our dedicated professionals have decades of experience fighting for those who have been hurt due to the negligence of others. Call (215) 709-6940 to speak with one of our Philadelphia car accident injury attorneys today. We offer a confidential consultation completely free of charge.