If you or your property has been damaged due to another person's negligence, you may be entitled to recover compensation for things like pain, suffering, lost wages, medical bills and more by filing a personal injury claim.
How Long Do You Have to File?
The statue of limitations is the time limit in which to file a personal injury claim. In Pennsylvania, personal injury cases have a two-year statute of limitations from the time of injury, or when injury was noticed first.
Where Should You File for a Personal Injury?
Personal injury lawsuits are typically handled by state courts in the county where the injury occurred or where those involved in the incident reside. Injury cases that do not exceed $8,000 can be filed in Pennsylvania's small claims court, or $10,000 in the case of Philadelphia municipality. Most attorneys work on contingency in personal injury cases. This means you do not owe unless you win. You may be liable for some court costs, regardless.
Once you file, the legal documents regarding the case are served to the party you are suing, the defendant. Facts are gathered in a process called discovery. Preliminary motions, or requests, may be made in early stages of the suit. An expert witness may be hired. This person will be disclosed to and deposed by the opposite party.
Can You Settle Out of Court?
You can avoid expensive court time. Many cases are settled at this point in the legal process by a third-party mediator, or other means of agreement. A small percentage of personal injury cases end up in a full trial.
Going to Trial
If applicable, trial starts with jury selection, opening statements and defense answers. The defendant may make counterclaim to which you, as the plaintiff, will respond. The jury or judge deliberates and reaches a verdict, which will be read in court.
Damages for Personal Injury
If you win your case, the judge or jury may award you money for your injuries, called damages. Damages compensate you for medical expenses, past and future lost wages, physical pain and suffering, disfigurement and disability.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Should you be found at fault in part, Pennsylvania's modified comparative negligence law may affect your settlement. If you are found to be at fault by a percentage, your damages will be reduced by that percentage. If your liability is equal to or less than the defendant's liability, you may recover damages.
The appeal process occurs when a defendant requests relief from harsh or unfair judgments. Written appellate briefs respond to the opening brief. The appellate court reviews the lower court's decision. The appeal may affirm the lower court ruling, reverse the ruling or remand the ruling back to trial. A written Notice of Appeal must be filed with the clerk within 30 days of the decision, or right to appeal may be lost.
State statutes and civil law for personal injury claims are complicated and change often. Consult a personal injury attorney in Pennsylvania for help making your claim and suggesting damages.