What Are the Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases?

A statute of limitation is a state law that limits the time to bring a civil or criminal action.  For a civil case involving personal injury, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is 2 years from the date of the injury or accident.  However, statutes of limitations vary from state to state.  In fact, if you were taking a road trip from Pennsylvania to Florida, you may be surprised to learn that if your car accident happened in Maryland, North Carolina, or South Carolina, you would have a 3-year statute of limitations and a 4 year statute of limitation in Florida.  

Article by The Pearce Law Firm – Personal Injury Attorneys (215) 557-8686

Why do states have statute of limitations?

The reason for a statute of limitations is generally to promote fairness to the defendant.  The general idea is that it is unfair for a person to have the right to sue indefinitely and that a person should use reasonable diligence in exercising or enforcing their legal rights.  Also, sometimes evidence can be lost and memories fade, which makes it harder for both sides of a lawsuit that is not filed until many years after the accident or incident.

Are there exceptions to the Statute of Limitations to require less than 2 years in Pennsylvania?

6 Month Notice Requirement if suing a Government entity. If the defendant is a state, city, or county, or an agency of a state, city, or county, under Pennsylvania law, the injured plaintiff may first have to file a notice of intent to sue within 6 months of the accident before filing the lawsuit.  Examples of government entities where an injured party may have to file the notice of intent to sue within 6 months of the accident include:

  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • City of Philadelphia
  • Pennsylvania Counties like Montgomery, Delaware, Chester, Bucks
  • Agencies like Philadelphia Housing Authority, School District of Philadelphia
  • SEPTA

Although not technically an exception to the statute of limitations, this special 6-month notice requirement can be used as an argument to bar a personal injury lawsuit in some cases.   For lawsuits involving a government entity, this special written notice to sue is generally required setting forth the details of the accident and medical information.  A personal injury attorney who handles cases against governmental entities can make sure you file this notice correctly within 6 months of the accident.

Are there any exceptions to the 2 year statute of limitation that allow a lawsuit to be filed after 2 years?

Exception of children or minors under Age 18.  A minor is a person under the age of 18.  If the injured victim is a minor at the time of the injury or accident, the statute of limitations does not begin until the victim turns 18.  The injured child or minor has 2 years to file the lawsuit after they turn 18.  For example, if a child riding a bicycle was hit by a car, and suffered an injury when he was 16 years old, he would have longer than 2 years to file his lawsuit.  The child would have 2 years from the date he turned 18 years old or possibly almost 4 years from the time of the accident depending on his birthday.

Exception of the discovery rule:  The “discovery rule” is an exception to the requirement that a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit within 2 years from the date of the incident or injury.  This is a rare exception, but occurs when the plaintiff can prove that they did not know of the existence of the injury or could not have found out about the injury within the 2 year statute of limitations time period.  The, the statutory limitation period does not begin to run until the discovery of the injury is reasonably possible.  The most common example of the “discovery rule” is a medical malpractice case where a medical instrument is left inside a patient during surgery.  The patient or plaintiff may not realize there are any “injuries” or symptoms for years after the surgery.   In this case, it could be argued that the statute of limitations is not from the date of the surgery (which caused the injury), but it could be argued that the statute of limitation should not begin to run until the patient “discovered” the injury.  

Statute of limitations can be tricky.  As explained above, depending on the state where the accident happened, a different statute of limitations may apply.  Also, even if you do have 2 years to file a lawsuit, often evidence can be destroyed or lost and witness’ memories can fade.  Lastly, there are certain lawsuits against governmental defendants that require statutory notice within 6 months.  You should retain an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how to file your lawsuit correctly and to make sure you do not miss any deadlines.  Don’t let the statute of limitations or notice requirement bar you from your entitlement to recover for your injuries.

Call our office at (215) 557-8686 to speak to a personal injury lawyer.

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