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. Everyone should be entitled to seek compensation for the injuries they sustained in a car accident.
Unfortunately, many Pennsylvania residents are unaware 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. Thus, it is essential to work with an experienced car accident attorney to maximize recovery.
Contact The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940 for your free case assessment with our Philadelphia car accident attorneys.
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 might 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 might 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 six 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 Bucks County car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on how and why your crash occurred, you might 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 that generally do not apply in car accident cases. The discovery rule is only applicable in situations where there is a significant delay between the infliction of the injury and the 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 might 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 occurs. 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 might 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 might be able to overcome the no-fault rules. An experienced Montgomery County 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.
According to Pennsylvania law, drivers in Philadelphia must carry insurance coverage that includes $15,000 for bodily injury per person, $30,000 for bodily injury per accident, $5,000 for property damage per accident, and $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 limited 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.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Car Accident in Pennsylvania
Determining fault in a car accident can be complex, as multiple parties might be responsible for damages. For instance, in a two-car collision, the driver who struck you might be sued. However, if several drivers played a role in the accident, you might need to sue them all. Additionally, if the owner of the vehicle allowed a hazardous or irresponsible driver to use their car, they could be held accountable. We are here to help you navigate these intricate legal matters and ensure that you receive the compensation you are owed.
In the event of an accident involving a commercial driver, the employer could be held liable through a legal doctrine called respondeat superior. This means that employers might be responsible for their employee’s negligence if the accident occurred while they were on the job. Therefore, if a commercial driver caused you harm while working, you can typically sue both the driver and their employer, even if the employer was not directly involved in the accident.
If you sustain injuries while using a rideshare service, such as Uber or Lyft, the company might share some responsibility. However, legal action against these companies is often not possible due to their drivers being independent contractors rather than employees. Nonetheless, if you are injured, you can still file a lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. Rideshare companies and their drivers typically have higher insurance limits, which can help cover your expenses.
In rare instances, your injuries might be due to a flaw in your vehicle’s design or manufacturing. In such cases, the manufacturer or designer can be held accountable for the defective part that caused the accident. Furthermore, if your accident resulted from the negligence of a government agency, such as a city or state agency, they might also be held responsible. However, filing a lawsuit against a government agency usually requires additional steps, and we are here to assist you in navigating that process.
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 to stay within the statute of limitations.
When you are in a car accident, follow these steps to protect yourself and your insurance claim. Take photos of all the vehicles and damage, review your insurance coverage and exclusions, document conversations with the insurance company, seek medical treatment for injuries, document all medical expenses, request medical records, and keep records of all accident-related items.
The Most Common Causes of Car Accidents in Pennsylvania
If you have sustained injuries from a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver, you have a right to receive compensation for your damages. There are numerous ways in which reckless individuals can cause car accidents. Thankfully, our team of car accident lawyers can assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve, regardless of the type of car accident you were involved in. Below are the top causes of car accidents in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, one of the most frequent causes of car accidents is speeding. Driving at high speeds reduces a driver’s capacity to respond to unexpected situations on the road, increasing the chances of losing control, colliding with other vehicles, or crashing into objects such as trees or walls. When a driver surpasses the speed limit or drives too fast for the current road conditions, they pose a risk to other motorists. This is because other drivers might not be able to react quickly enough to avoid an accident if they suddenly need to stop or swerve to avoid a speeding vehicle.
If you have been involved in a car accident caused by distracted driving, our proficient attorneys in Pennsylvania can assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve. When drivers are preoccupied with their phones or other electronic gadgets, their responsiveness becomes sluggish, which impairs their ability to control their vehicles. This, in turn, elevates the risk of an accident. Collisions with other vehicles or obstacles, such as pedestrians or construction sites, can be extremely hazardous. Even if the driver is distracted, they might not be able to circumvent the accident.
Illegal Lane Changes
Car accidents can often be caused by drivers who engage in illegal lane changes. This occurs when drivers fail to use their turn signals properly or neglect to keep an eye out for other vehicles on the road. Abruptly changing lanes without checking the rearview and side mirrors can be a reckless decision, leading to dangerous outcomes such as head-on collisions if the other driver is forced into oncoming traffic. It is crucial for drivers to exercise caution when changing lanes and to always prioritize safety above all else.
In the state of Pennsylvania, tailgating is known to be a frequent reason for rear-end collisions. It is important to note that if you find yourself being tailgated, it is highly recommended that you do not increase your speed. Instead, it is best to gradually decrease your speed until there is a safe distance between you and the vehicle behind you. In the event that a collision does occur due to someone else’s negligence, it is within your rights to take legal action against them.
Disobeying Traffic Signals
Neglecting traffic signals is a perilous act that can lead to severe car accidents. Motorists who disregard red lights or stop signs usually do so to beat other drivers to the intersection. Unfortunately, this can be exceptionally hazardous because these drivers tend to speed, significantly raising the chances of colliding with pedestrians or other vehicles. Additionally, drivers who flout traffic signals endanger other motorists by compelling them to abruptly brake or swerve to evade a collision.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
In Pennsylvania, drunk driving remains a significant contributor to fatal car accidents. This irresponsible conduct not only imperils the driver but also poses a serious threat to other drivers, walkers, and bicyclists. Drunk drivers frequently exhibit impaired reflexes, which can hinder their ability to avoid accidents. In the event that you suffer harm due to the actions of a drunk driver, you are entitled to seek compensation for your losses.
Contact Our Experienced Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorneys Today
For a free case review, speak with our car accident lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm today at (215) 709-6940.