In 2017, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, there were over 58,000 car accidents that resulted in injuries and over 1,000 that were fatal. If you were involved in a serious accident, your days may have turned into a haze of missed work, medical appointments, medications to help you recover, and stressful interactions with an insurance company that seems determined to compensate you as little as possible. You realize that you may have to file a lawsuit in order to recover damages, but how long after a car accident can you sue?
Deadline for Filing a Claim
The answer to this question is addressed in Pennsylvania’s personal injury laws and statutory rules. There are always filing deadlines for claims and lawsuits, and such a deadline is referred to as a statute of limitations. For a personal injury case (such as those related to car accidents), the statute of limitations is two years from the date of injury. That means you must file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania’s civil court system within two years of being injured. This deadline applies whether you were a passenger, a driver, a pedestrian, a biker, or a truck driver.
In New Jersey, the law also provides for a two (2) year statue of limitations. There are a few instances where the deadline is a little different. If your lawsuit is against the city, county or state government agency, then Pennsylvania law requires that the government body be given notice of the claim within six (6) months. In New Jersey, Notice of Claim must be given within ninety (90) days. In New Jersey, there is a very strict procedure laid out by the law. If this procedure is not followed, your claim can be barred. Delaware also imposes strict procedures with respect to these types of claims.
In Pennsylvania, the statue of limitations for all death may run from the date of death, not the date of original injury. For cases involving minors in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the statue of limitations does not begin until the minor reaches age 18. You do not want to settle or resolve your case until you have a full understanding of the nature of your injuries and the damage (both economic and non-economic) that resulted from them.
Why Do the Courts Impose a Statue of Limitations?
It is a basic fact that evidence will fade over time, witnesses will become increasingly difficult to track down, and memories will fade. A deadline for filing a lawsuit encourages individuals to seek fair compensation before the evidence (e.g., video recordings, eyewitness reports, photographs, doctor’s reports) are lost or forgotten. The goal is also to make sure that claims are filed and processed within a reasonable time frame.
What Missing the Deadline Means to You
If you fail to file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, then the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware civil court systems will most likely refuse to hear your case at any time in the future. The defendant (the at-fault party against whom the lawsuit is filed) will move to have the case dismissed because it is time-barred (past the statute of limitations) and, in all likelihood, the court will grant their motion. Your opportunity to sue for fair compensation will be lost if you do not file by the deadline. Exceptions to this rule are extremely rare. That is why it is so important to get the process started so that a claim can be filed within the time frame set by the statute of limitations.
When Should You File a Claim or a Lawsuit
It is a wise move to get the filing process started early on. Do not wait to file a claim if you are receiving medical care for injuries you suffered in a car accident. The statute of limitations will come faster than you expect, as deadlines always seem to do. And filing a claim is not the type of process you can complete the night before the deadline.
Even if you believe that you will be able to settle with the insurance company without the need for a lawsuit, starting the process for filing provides you additional leverage. The insurance company will know that you do intend to file a lawsuit if the settlement they offer does not meet your expectations.
Contact Sacchetta & Baldino
The date on which the statute of limitation begins to run and the date on which the statute of limitations expires, is sometimes fact specific. For that reason, it is important that you contact an attorney right away to make sure that your rights are protected. If you or someone you care about has been injured in a car wreck, you should start the process of filing a lawsuit right away – and the law office of Sachetta & Baldino can help.
We can handle all communication with insurance, file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, and either negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or pursue your claim in court – as well as all the details that go into defending your rights. Sacchetta & Baldino has a staff of experienced lawyers practicing throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Contact us today so that we can put our years of experience and successful track record to work for you and make sure you receive the compensation the law provides.