What is the Personal Injury Claim Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania?

by Eric Chaffin | Last Updated: January 19, 2021

If you have suffered an injury due to the negligence of another person, you are entitled to seek monetary compensation from them. This right to file a civil lawsuit is not open-ended, however. There is a deadline in Pennsylvania, known as the statute of limitations.

It is a limited window of time to bring a claim. If you fail to file your lawsuit before the statutory period expires, the court could dismiss your case forever. This is true even if the underlying facts of your claim are strong.

The statute of limitations differs not only across jurisdictions but also across types of lawsuits. For a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania, you have two years from the date of the injury to file suit. Like with most things, there are important exceptions to this statute that are best explained by a personal injury lawyer in Pittsburgh.

Calculating the statute of limitations

In the vast majority of injury claims, the two-year statute of limitations begins to run from the date the accident occurs. This statute includes the vast majority of injury claims, including:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Slip, trip, and fall injuries
  • Medical error
  • Violent crime

That is not always the case, though. If you are involved in an accident but only discover the injury at a later date, the statute of limitations would begin to run from the date of discovery. This could potentially extend the amount of time you have to file suit. This special exception is known as the “discovery rule,” and it only applies in limited circumstances. It is in your best interest to speak with an attorney before assuming this rule applies in your case.

The statute of limitations could be shorter than two years if the target of the lawsuit is a government entity. If you have a claim against a state, county, or local government– you must formally notify the government within six months of an accident occurring.

Exceptions to the statute of limitations

There are several exceptions to the statute of limitations. These exceptions can toll– meaning pause– the expiration of the statute. These exceptions are uncommon, and you should never assume they apply in your case. To be safe, discuss this in greater detail with legal counsel.

The first and most common exception involves non-emancipated minors. Minors are held by the court to be legally incompetent. This means they do not have the capacity to file a lawsuit on their own behalf. Because of this, the statute of limitations for an injury to a minor does not begin to expire until their 18th birthday. In other words, minors have until their 20th birthday to bring a claim even when an injury occurred when they were a small child.

The statute of limitations can also be tolled for out-of-state defendants. If the defendant moved away from Pennsylvania for four or more months during the statutory period, the statute is tolled for the period they are gone.

Finally, the statute is also tolled in certain cases where fraud is involved. If a defendant uses a false identity after causing an injury, the statute is tolled for as long as their true identity is concealed. This exception is rarely used despite its availability.

Let an attorney help you comply with the statute of limitations

A violation of the statute of limitations is one of the surest ways to put your injury claim in jeopardy. By failing to comply with this statute, you could risk the court barring your claim no matter how strong your underlying case is.

At Chaffin Luhana, we take tremendous care to ensure our clients file their claims on time. We understand the complexities of exceptions to the statute and are prepared to advise you if they apply in your case. To learn more, schedule a free consultation with Chaffin Luhana today.