You were in a car accident a year ago and are just realizing that your back pain may have been caused by the injuries you sustained in the crash. Are you able to make a claim against the driver who caused the accident? Perhaps, you’ve just seen a new doctor who says you were misdiagnosed years earlier, and the treatment you received has made your condition worse. Can you go back to your original doctor and sue for malpractice?
There are time limits placed on civil lawsuits that tell you how long after an event you are allowed to file suit. These limits are referred to as the statute of limitations. The limits are in place to prevent potential plaintiffs from threatening lawsuits indefinitely, and to protect the integrity of evidence, especially witness testimony. When the statute of limitations expires, the injured person can no longer file a lawsuit for monetary damages.
The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of claim, and it also varies depending upon the state where the action took place. All of the information that follows is for the state of Pennsylvania.
In most cases, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Pennsylvania is two years. Generally speaking, if a lawsuit is to be filed, it must be done within two years of the date the injury-causing event occurred. However, Pennsylvania does have what is known as a discovery rule. This rule can extend the length of time a person has to file suit in some cases. The discovery rule allows the two-year clock to start ticking at the time the plaintiff knows, or reasonably should have known, an injury occurred and that it was caused by someone else’s actions.
There are special considerations given to minors who suffer injury and file a personal injury lawsuit. The Minor’s Tolling Statute says that if the injury happens to a child under the age of 18, the two-year limit doesn’t begin until his or hers 18th birthday.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims follows the same guidelines as personal injury claims. Victims of medical malpractice have two years to file a lawsuit, and the clock starts when the injury-causing event takes place, or when the patient discovers (or should have discovered) the injury. There are cases in medical malpractice where the patient may not know that an injury has occurred until much later. For example, if a person was diagnosed with cancer and learns the cancer was in fact visible on an earlier x-ray, they may have two years after they actually learn of, or discover, the cancer diagnosis to file a lawsuit.
Medical malpractice statute of limitations also follows the Minor’s Tolling Statute, allowing patients who were under 18 years of age when the injury occurred to file suit until they reach their 20th birthday.
In most states, including Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits falls under the personal injury umbrella. That means that when an automobile accident happens, if there were injuries or fatalities, whether to a driver, passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian, any lawsuit regarding the accident must be filed within the two-year time frame.
The clock starts ticking in car accident cases on the date of the accident. However, if the crash caused a fatality, the representative of the deceased person has two years from the person’s date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. The date of death could be different from the date of the accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to personal injury, malpractice, or a car accident, don’t delay in obtaining legal representation as your time may be running out to file a lawsuit. When you are injured at the hand of another, you are entitled to compensation for the financial and medical burdens that the injury caused. Because these types of cases require medical knowledge as well as legal, you must find an experienced attorney who also has a good understanding of medical issues.
At Ross Feller Casey, we are happy to review your case for free. We have nationally recognized physicians on staff to consult in personal injury, malpractice, and car accident cases. Call us today to talk to one of our experienced attorneys.
We handle our cases on a contingency basis, so there is no charge to you until there is a financial recovery in your case.
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