Statute of Limitations for Pennsylvania Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

medical malpractice wrongful deathIf you were injured in an accident due to the negligence of another person, the law allows you to pursue compensation from that person in a personal injury lawsuit. If a loved one dies as a result of an accident, then you may be able to collect damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Through either of these types of lawsuits, you or your family members may be able to recover a variety of damages including medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, pain and suffering and loss of consortium. However, in order to recover any damages, Pennsylvania law requires that your lawsuit is filed in a “timely” manner. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations rules establish the time frame in which a lawsuit must be filed. If the lawsuit is not filed within the stated time frame, then the plaintiff may be forever barred from pursuing damages in court.

General Limitations Rules

car accident wrongful death Personal injury and wrongful death cases can arise from several different types of negligent incidents including vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice and product liability cases. The general statute of limitations rule is that a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years from the date of death. Similarly, personal injury lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date the injury occurred. However, there are exceptions to the general limitations rules.

Exceptions to the General Limitations Rules

  • Discovery Exception – In some cases a plaintiff may not immediately realize that he or she suffered an injury. In fact, there are instances in which a victim’s injuries do not become apparent for weeks, months or even years after the accident occurred that caused the injury.
    • For example, if a medical instrument is left inside a patient during a surgery, the patient may not experience pain or discomfort until sometime after the surgery. To make sure that such plaintiffs are not barred from potential financial recovery, under the discovery exception for certain cases Pennsylvania law extends the time for filing personal injury actions by delaying when the limitations period begins to the date that the plaintiff knew or should have known that he or she suffered an injury.
  • minors personal injury
  • Exception for Minors – Pennsylvania extends the statute of limitations for minors who are victims. A minor is a person who is under the age of 18.
    • If a victim is an “unemancipated minor” at the time of the accident that caused his or her injury, then the limitations period does not begin until the victim turns 18. The victim then has 2 years to file a personal injury lawsuit.
    • However, if the victim is a minor who is emancipated, then the minor is treated as an adult victim. The limitations period will begin when the injury occurred, unless another exception applies.
  • Government Defendant Exception – If the party that is responsible for your injuries is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a city, a county, or an agency of the Commonwealth, city or county, then the rules are quite different. The law does not allow a plaintiff to comply with the general time limits and simply file a lawsuit in court seeking damages against the government. Instead the plaintiff must first file a notice of intent (NOI) to sue within 6 months of the accident. If a NOI is not filed, then the victim may be forever barred from suing the government entity in court, even if the lawsuit is filed within 2 years of the accident.

Don’t Miss the Deadline to File a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit

general limitations rulesIf you have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of someone else, it is important that you do not delay in filing your claim. Because of the complexities of personal injury and wrongful death cases, there is often a significant amount of work to complete in order to prepare a case to be filed. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, a slip or fall, or through medical negligence – or worse you lost a loved one to one of these situations – contact Donaghue & Labrum. We are experienced attorneys who will review the facts of your case and explain to you your legal options. Time is of the essence, so reach out to us now.