Pennsylvania Personal Injury Law: What You Need to Know
March 8 2023
In Pennsylvania, claimants wishing to file a personal injury lawsuit must do so within two years of the date of the incident or risk losing the right to pursue damages. Additionally, certain claims, such as those involving medical malpractice, must be filed within a shorter time frame.
Pennsylvania Personal Injury Law
Pennsylvania personal injury law is important to understand if you have experienced physical, emotional or psychological harm as a result of someone’s negligence or wrongful action. The state has both statutory laws and common law doctrines that establish the rights of those injured in an accident or due to another person’s wrongdoing. The idea behind this system is to award damages to victims proportional to the degree of injury they have sustained.
Under Pennsylvania law, if an individual suffers a personal injury, they will typically be able to pursue a claim for compensatory damages. These are awarded for losses such as medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. However, the court may choose not to award punitive damages – which are intended more as a punishment for wrongdoers than as financial compensation for victims – depending on the severity of the injury and fault attributed to the defendant.
In some cases, a victim can recover damages for mental anguish, aggravation of pre-existing conditions, loss of consortium and other intangible harms. Depending on the type of case, a court may also take into account damages related to inconvenience, scarring or disfigurement or medical care associated with the plaintiff’s injuries.
While filing a lawsuit can help an injured party seek justice by receiving financial reimbursement through compensatory damages, it is not always a guarantee of success. Whether individuals have legitimate grounds to bring suit depends on whether they can prove that the defendant had a duty of care while they were responsible for their actions; breached said duty; and directly caused harm as a result of that breach. In certain cases, such as medical malpractice or police brutality cases involving constitutional violations, it can be difficult for plaintiffs to meet these legal requirements.
Ultimately, Pennsylvania personal injury laws require careful consideration when determining whether an individual is eligible to pursue legal action against another party after being injured due to negligent conduct or wrongful act. It is important for those who are considering bringing a personal injury claim to consult with reputable legal counsel in order to make informed decisions about their rights and options moving forward.
With this in mind, it is time to turn our attention towards understanding the legal rights of injury victims under Pennsylvania law and determining what steps should be taken in order to maximize one’s chances of successful litigation. NEXT SECTION: Legal Rights of Injury Victims
Legal Rights of Injury Victims
In Pennsylvania, as with other states, injury victims have legal rights after they have been harmed due to someone else’s negligence. Under the law, when someone has been hurt by another’s careless and reckless behavior, that person may have the right to seek financial compensation through a personal injury claim.
The law recognizes several types of injuries that can be caused by another’s negligence. These include physical injuries, emotional and psychological trauma, economic losses such as lost wages, and punitive damages in some cases. Monetary damages are intended to make the victim “whole” again by compensating them for their losses and all of their suffering from an injury sustained at the hands of another party.
There are always two sides to an argument although both parties generally agree that people should be held responsible for the unintentional harm or damage they cause to another. Those who act negligently or recklessly need to understand that there can be serious consequences. In contrast, those who suffer from injury due to someone else’s careless behavior should know that they may be able to pursue legal action for financial compensation for their losses and suffering.
As it relates to personal injury law in Pennsylvania, it is important for individuals to know their legal rights so they can anticipate what might happen if they find themselves injured by someone else’s negligent behavior. With this knowledge in hand, individuals will be better equipped to take action if needed.
Now that we’ve discussed the legal rights of injury victims, let’s move on to examine important elements of a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania.
- In Pennsylvania, all personal injury claims must be filed within a two year statute of limitations period.
- In medical malpractice cases, a claim must be filed within two years from when the injury was discovered or should have been discovered.
- Pennsylvania’s Comparative Negligence Law provides that an individual can only recover damages if they are found to be less than 50% at fault for the incident.
Elements of a Personal Injury Claim
When filing a personal injury lawsuit in the state of Pennsylvania, four legal elements must be established in order to receive damages. These elements, sometimes referred to as the ‘building blocks’, are duty, breach of duty, causation, and legally compensable injury.
The first element an injured party must prove is that the defendant owed them a duty of care. This duty comes from two sources: common law duty and statutory duties. Common law duty states that every individual has a duty to act with reasonable care towards other individuals and property, such that no unreasonable harm or risk of danger to others is posed. Statutory duties require individuals to adhere to the specific laws and regulations set forth by the state. For example, be expected to follow posted speed limits on roads or comply with safety procedures in hazardous working environments.
Breach of Duty
The second element required by an injured party establishes that the defendant breached their common law or statutory duty. To demonstrate this breach, one must provide evidence that the accused actor fell short of exercising reasonable care and deviated from statutes outlined by the state. This is typically done through testimony given by an expert witness or a thorough analysis of paper trails such as medical records.
The third element requires an injured party to establish a causal link between the breach of duty and their injuries. Causation can be broken down into two distinct links; factual cause and legal cause. Factual cause simply requires an injured plaintiff to prove that it was highly likely that their damages were caused by the actions (or lack thereof) of the accused actor. Legal cause goes beyond factual cause and asks if the accused would have taken any steps to save someone from harm had they not breached their originalduty of care; for example whether posting additional signs about potentially dangerous areas or ensuring hazardous equipment is properly maintained would have prevented any harm or risk of danger had it been done prior to the incident.
Legally Compensable Injury
The fourth element an injured party must establish is that their damage resulted in a legally compensable injury which warrants reparations from a jury or court decision. Examples include physical damage, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of income (actual wages),medical expenses (future/past), pain & suffering and/or punitive damages depending on fault being divided amongst all parties involved (if applicable).
At its core, establishing a valid case is largely based on showing that all four elements were present at the time of incident and beyond this point hinges on properly presenting evidence supporting each element in Pennsylvania courts; both sides may debate what is fair compensation while also remaining aware that courts may reduce amount awarded depending on several factors such as severity & fault division however overall conclusion falls upon well-crafted argument presented in conjunction with skillfully delivered evidence outlining each element. Moving forward, next section will explore how negligence influences many personal injury law cases as it applies to Pennsylvania Laws & Regulations.
Negligence is an important concept that must be understood in order to successfully navigate Pennsylvania’s personal injury law. In cases involving negligence, an injured party known as the “Plaintiff” sues another party known as the “Defendant” for causing their injury and resulting damages. Generally, these cases revolve around allegations that the Defendant owed a duty of care to the Plaintiff, breached this duty by failing to use reasonable care, and caused damage or injuries to the Plaintiff.
The two sides will dispute if a duty of care was created and if the harm was foreseeable. The Defendant may argue that they had no legal obligation to take caution during their actions or interactions with the Plaintiff. On the other hand, the Plaintiff may allege that a duty was formed between them and the Defendant in the form of a contract, statute, public policy consideration, relationship status, or otherwise. The parties might also debate over causation: whether or not the breach caused by the Defendant directly led to their injuries and damages.
Finally, both parties will likely disagree about whether or not there were mitigating circumstances such as contributory negligence that could have contributed to or exacerbated the Plaintiff’s injuries. In any assignment of fault regarding an alleged act of negligence, each side must understand that they are responsible for proving their case through evidence and any applicable witness testimony.
Overall, navigating Pennsylvania’s personal injury law through a negligence-based argument requires careful consideration on both sides in understanding every aspect of potential contributing factors in order to build an effective case. Moving forward into indemnification and compensation claims requires a comprehensive understanding of all underlying factors at play in order to make well-informed decisions on behalf of either party involved.
Indemnification and Compensation
When injured due to the negligence of another person or entity, seeking indemnification and compensation is a key step towards relieving your hardships. Pennsylvania personal injury law is based on the legal doctrine of “comparative negligence” which allows individuals to pursue damages even if they are found partially liable for the accident in question. In a comparative negligence system, the liability and damages owed by the defendant are allocated in proportion to each party’s percentage of responsibility for the incident. There has been significant debate surrounding this topic as more stringent laws have been put into place over the last few decades.
In order to be entitled to some form of compensation, claimants must be able to prove that the other party involved was negligent and therefore liable for their injuries. Negligence can be defined as carelessness or recklessness on behalf of an individual or entity that causes an injury or harm to another person. Therefore, the claimant typically bears the burden of proving four main elements: duty, breach of duty, causation and harm. It is important for victims to note that under current Pennsylvania case law, even if other parties are considered partly responsible for causing their injury (and therefore limited damage may be awarded) they may still potentially collect benefits from those other parties.
Supporters of comparative negligence believe it is a just system since it allows fairness based on each party’s degree of culpability. On the other hand, opponents argue that allowing defendants to escape complete responsibility can be disincentivizing and sometimes lead to unfair rulings by putting too much responsibility on the shoulder of claimants trying to prove fault when there might have been multiple causes at play. Whether you agree with this practice or not, it is important as personal injury claimants in Pennsylvania to understand that damages can be recovered regardless of proportional fault.
Leading into the next section regarding Damages Recoverable:
You may now have a better understanding in regards to when and how indemnification and compensation may be pursued within Pennsylvania personal injury law. In order for those damages to take effect however, we must understand exactly what type of damages are recoverable within personal injury lawsuits.
When a claimant prevails in a personal injury lawsuit in the state of Pennsylvania, the damage award, which is determined by the court, may include economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include any expenses or losses that have a numeric value such as medical bills, lost wages, funeral and burial costs, or property damage. Noneconomic damages account for subjective harms like pain and suffering or loss of companionship. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff if their legal action against the defendant was motivated by malice or harm intended.
Under Pennsylvania law, a party can only recover the cost of medical treatment caused by the accident up to a limit of $250,000 unless exceptional circumstances exist. This is known as the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act. Moreover, statute 42 Pa. C.S.A § 8371 allows for double or treble damages to be awarded in certain instances where specific mental elements are present from an act committed with malicious intent such as fraud or mischief.
There has been much debate on whether tort reform should be enacted within Pennsylvania and whether damage caps should be set on noneconomic awards such as pain and suffering. Supporters of enacting damage reforms feel that such limits can ultimately help create lower premiums for drivers across the state while opponents believe that tort reform will ultimately benefit corporations at the expense of fair compensation for injured claimants.
Regardless of whether tort reform is enacted within Pennsylvania, all personal injury claims must abide by the State’s statute of limitations which will be covered in the following section…
Statute of Limitations
When pursuing a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania, it is important to understand the state’s statute of limitations. This law sets a timeline for individuals to take issue with another party for neglect or wrongdoings and provides a deadline for taking legal matters into their own hands. Depending on the type of case and other factors such as who is being sued or when an injury occurred, the timeline set by this law can vary.
Generally speaking, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania requires that all civil actions in state courts be brought within two years after the cause of action accrues. A cause of action accrues when one party breaches their legal duty owed to another. Neglecting to act within this specified timeframe typically results in any claims being terminated without consideration in a court of law. While there are certain exceptions to this rule, they are limited to certain specific areas such as medical malpractice cases and government workers making horror claims against their employers.
The two-year filing limit allows personal injury victims to take legal action shortly after becoming aware of an injury caused by negligence or wrongful conduct. On one hand, it allows for quick justice but also serves as cut off for injury victims who may not have been aware or ready to pursue civil remedies until much later down the line or have some extenuating facts that could prevent them from taking timely action. Thus, although statute of limitations can bring closure to many cases, its harshness may deny both parties due process in certain situations.
The implications of Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitation is something all personal injury victims should take into serious consideration when thinking about filing a civil action suit against another party. It is best practice for plaintiffs to discuss their injury matters with an experienced attorney prior to filing so they can fully understand their rights under these rules. With that said, readers should know their rights and responsibilities involved in dealing with a potential lawsuit which will be discussed further in the following section – “Finding a Qualified Attorney”.
Finding a Qualified Attorney
Finding a Qualified Attorney:
When looking for an attorney to represent you in a personal injury case, it’s important to consider their qualifications and experience. Most attorneys specialize in certain areas of the law and may not be best-suited to handle your specific type of case. To find a qualified attorney to represent you in a Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit, there are a few steps that can help narrow down the field.
First, ask family, friends, or colleagues for referrals or recommendations. Word-of-mouth can be a reliable source when researching local attorneys. Additionally, many state bar websites have lists of certified attorneys who specialize in certain types of cases. You can also research online reviews to find out what experiences other clients have had with suggested attorneys.
Another key factor is yur connection with the lawyer. Before hiring an attorney, it’s important you have an open discussion about the legal process and fees associated with taking on your case. It is also important to make sure you feel comfortable working with the attorney and that they understand your story and concerns. The relationship between lawyer and client is paramount in any personal injury claim as they will be advising you every step of the way. If this relationship isn’t strong from the outset it is likely that the outcome of your case could suffer as well.
Finally, consider cost versus value when selecting an attorney for your personal injury case in Pennsylvania. Cost is always something that must be taken into consideration but should not be the sole basis for deciding which attorney to hire. Some attorneys may charge more than others due to their experience or track record but it doesn’t mean they will necessarily deliver better results in court. Choose carefully and pick an attorney who has your best interests at heart above all else.
The next section will discuss the legal process of a personal injury lawsuit including filing deadlines, attending hearings, gathering evidence, and pursuing damages.
Legal Process of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The legal process of a personal injury lawsuit includes several steps, often starting with the victim notifying the negligent party of the occurrence, and escalating to a courtroom trial if necessary. In general, filing a lawsuit begins with the claimant filing a complaint in civil court or through arbitration, along with any other legal documents required for that particular jurisdiction. Subsequently, the defendant must provide an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. If an answer is not provided within the designated amount of time, then a default judgment may be issued in favor of the plaintiff.
Next, discovery takes place where both sides can request further information from one another to help build their cases and uncover facts they may not have known otherwise. This procedure typically involves exchanging subpoenaed documents and taking part in interrogation sessions under oath. The parties may also opt for mediation or arbitration if they are interested in settling out of court. If no settlement is reached during arbitration or mediation, the case will typically proceed to trial.
At trial, both sides present evidence and testimony to support their claims with the jury ultimately deciding who should receive damages as compensation for damages caused by negligence. The verdict issued at this point is binding on both parties and appeals can be requested if either side feels like there was an error in judgement or that the other side presented false evidence during their arguments. No matter which course of action is taken throughout the legal process, all Pennsylvania personal injury claimants should ensure that their rights are protected and that they understand every step of the process before making any decisions or entering into any agreements with potential defendants.
Now that we’ve explored the legal process of a personal injury lawsuit, let’s take a look into “Insurance Claims and Settlements” in our next section.
Insurance Claims and Settlements
When a person in Pennsylvania is injured, their first step should be pursuing an insurance claim for compensation. The victim has the burden of proving that their injuries were caused by the negligence of another party. If the claim succeeds, the court may order the negligent party to pay a settlement to cover medical bills, lost wages, and any other costs related to the injury.
In personal injury cases, insurance companies may attempt to limit their liability by offering lowball settlements or denying valid claims altogether. An individual can dispute this kind of behavior and take the case to court. This is where having legal representation comes in handy – an experienced personal injury attorney can ensure that an insurance company doesn’t take advantage of their client and will honestly assess how much money is owed.
Alternatively, a victim of injury may choose to negotiate directly with an insurance company. In these instances, victims should be aware of various tactics used by insurers to reduce payouts or deny claims altogether. It’s important to gather all supporting documentation prior to negotiating with an insurer and being mindful of any deadlines they set out. Also, it’s advisable not to sign anything until everything is clear and agreed upon. When in doubt, consulting a personal injury attorney is always a wise choice before agreeing to any offers.
Though every situation is unique, most personal injury cases end in either a settlement or a trial verdict against the negligent party’s insurance company. Victims have a right to pursue compensation from the wrongdoer; however, they should be aware of potential outcomes. A personal injury attorney can help evaluate options and determine what course of action best serves the victim’s interests.
Common Questions and Responses
Are there any statutes of limitation on filing a Pennsylvania personal injury claim?
Yes, there are statutes of limitation on filing a Pennsylvania personal injury claim. Under Pennsylvania law, an individual must file a personal injury claim within two years after the date of their injuries. This two year statute of limitation applies to both negligence and intentional tort claims. Additionally, any medical malpractice claim must be filed within two years from the date of injury or seven years from the date in which the act that caused injury occurred. Claims cannot be brought after these periods have lapsed, so it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible if someone believes they have been injured.
What types of damages are recoverable in a Pennsylvania personal injury claim?
In general, Pennsylvania law allows for a person to recover four types of damages in a personal injury claim. These are economic damages, non-economic damages, punitive damages, and medical expenses.
Economic damages generally include items like past and future lost wages, medical bills, loss of earning capacity, and other associated costs such as property damage or travel costs incurred while receiving medical treatment.
Non-economic damages refer to compensation for any pain and suffering caused by the injury or illness in question. This typically includes physical pain and mental anguish, as well as emotional distress.
Punitive damages are intended to punish the person responsible for the injury or illness, rather than compensating the victim for it. In some cases, these damages can be awarded if it is determined that the defendant acted intentionally or with gross negligence.
Medical Expenses are self-explanatory—any medical costs associated with the injury must be paid out of pocket. In some cases, compensation may also be available to cover transportation and child care costs related to seeking medical care.
How can I find an experienced attorney to handle my Pennsylvania personal injury claim?
The best way to find an experienced attorney to handle your Pennsylvania personal injury claim is to do some research. Start by asking friends and family for referrals, as well as looking online for reviews and ratings of attorneys in your area. You should also look into attorneys with experience in personal injury cases specifically in Pennsylvania, since they will be familiar with the laws specific to this jurisdiction. Once you have narrowed down a few prospects, it is important to interview them to get a better sense of their style and approach – this will help ensure that you hire someone who is knowledgeable and comfortable with the process. Finally, make sure that whomever you choose is licensed in Pennsylvania and is dedicated to helping injury victims, not just looking out for their own bottom line.