After you have been injured, the last thing you want to think about is filing a lawsuit. Your focus is on recovery, getting treatment, and trying to get back to your normal life. However, once hospital bills start to come or paychecks get smaller due to missed work, you realize that someone has to pay for your injuries. The person who caused the accident should pay for your recovery, which may mean that you'll have to file a lawsuit. But how do you know if you even have a case?
Many people who are injured don't think they have a strong chance to win a legal case, or that what happened to them may be too minor to warrant pursuing legal action. However, the good news is that an experienced personal injury attorney can help victims get compensation for their damages, pain, suffering, lost wages, and other injuries.
Even if someone knows they have a case, they may think that filing a lawsuit involves too much time, effort, and money. This isn't necessarily true: your personal injury attorney will do most of the work for you. Your case may be settled sooner than you realize, without ever having to go to trial. Before you give up on pursuing a claim, contact a personal injury attorney who will advise you on whether you have a case, and will offer a contingent fee agreement so you don't pay anything unless you win.
Time Limits for Filing a Claim
Before you know if you have a case, you need to know about the statute of limitations. This is a legal term that describes the amount of time you have to file a legal claim. If you wait too long, your case may be thrown out, and you'll lose your chance to get compensation.
There are different statutes of limitations depending on the type of case, and the parties involved. In most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is two (2) years from the date of the incident or injury. In a claim related to an intentional tort, such as assault or battery, the action must be commenced within two (2) years. Similarly, in an action to recover damages for negligently caused injuries, such as a car accident, slip and fall, or workplace injury, the time limit is two (2) years. However, the time limit can be shorter or longer, depending on the situation.
If the plaintiff has a claim against a government employee or agency, then there is a short notification period to put the government on notice of the claim. The plaintiff only has 6 months to notify the government, or risk having their claim dismissed. This includes claims against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia. The time limit may be up to 2 years for claims against the federal government.
For example, for an injury that took place on a SEPTA bus, a slip and fall in a state government building, or a car accident involving a city vehicle may require notifying the government of the claim within 6 months. This includes providing a statement of claim which includes:
- The name and address of the persons involved;
- The date and approximate time of the accident;
- The approximate location of the accident; and
- The name and address of any attending physician.
In certain situations, the statute of limitations may be longer than two years from the incident. If the injured party is a child, or a minor under the age of 18, the 2-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until they have reached the age of 18. Essentially, anyone injured as a minor has until they turn 20 to file an injury claim.
Additionally, if an injury does not become known or discovered until later, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until they should reasonably become aware of the harm. For example, if a patient undergoes surgery, and the doctor left pieces of a surgical sponge behind in the patient's body, they may not be immediately aware of the incident. It may take weeks or months of pain before the patient learns of the doctor's mistake. Once the patient becomes aware of the cause of their injury, then the statute of limitations may begin to run. This is known as the discovery rule.
The statute of limitations can make the difference between recovering damages and getting nothing at all. Even if you think the statute of limitations has expired, your attorney may advise you that you meet one of the exceptions. You should consider contacting an attorney as soon as possible to make sure your case is filed in time.
Another important question to consider in whether you may have a case that involves contributory negligence. Even if the defendant was found to be negligent in causing your injury, if the jury finds that you were also negligent, you may be prevented from obtaining damages.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is considered a modified comparative law state. This means that the plaintiff will be able to recover for their damages as long as the plaintiff is not more than 50% at fault for the injury. Their damages will also be reduced proportionately based on their level of contributory negligence.
For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages, and the jury finds the plaintiff was 40% at fault, and the defendant was 60% at fault, then the plaintiff should recover $60,000 in damages from the defendant. However, if the plaintiff was 51% at fault, they may recover nothing from the defendant.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Case Evaluation
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury, you may be able to file a personal injury claim to recover monetary damages. A personal injury lawsuit can make sure that the person who caused the damage is held responsible for paying the cost of recovery. If you're unsure whether you have a case, or want to know more about the claims process, contact the team at Gilman & Bedigian today. We offer a free consultation to evaluate your case, and will fight to make sure you get the compensation you deserve.