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Injury Law

A statute of limitations is a law that restricts the amount of time that may pass before an individual initiates legal proceedings.   Time limits for statutes of limitations depend upon the type of case being filed and the state where the cause of action occurred.  Once that time limit passes, the injured person may no longer sue to recover monetary damages, unless a legal exception applies.  Pennsylvania law provides for various statutes of limitations when it pertains to injury law.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society undertook an aggressive campaign in 2002 to bring about tort reform in Pennsylvania law, claiming that medical malpractice awards by juries and hefty medical malpractice insurance premiums were forcing doctors to leave the state in high numbers.  In spring of 2002, the Pennsylvania state legislature enacted a comprehensive medical malpractice bill known as the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) act, which limited the rights of many patients to pursue meritorious claims.

This Pennsylvania law is extremely restrictive and includes a section called the statute of repose, which establishes a time limit on how long a victim has to file a claim in court even if the discovery rule would otherwise extend the time permitted to bring a suit.  The statute of repose applies to all causes of action arising on or after March 20th, 2002.  Pennsylvania lawyers can help interpret this complex litigation, especially as it applies to specific situations.

Under Pennsylvania law, the statute of repose prevents claims from being brought more than seven years after the occurrence of the injury–even if an injury or its cause is not discovered until long after the action or inaction precipitating the injury.  There are some important exceptions to this Pennsylvania law.  In cases where a foreign object is left in the body (for example, during surgery), the statute of repose does not apply.  Death or survival claims must be filed within two years of the time of death, unless the cause of death was fraudulently concealed or actively misrepresented.

With few exceptions in Pennsylvania law, adults must file personal injury lawsuits within two years of an accident.  In those cases involving minors, however, claims must be brought within seven years from the time of the minor’s injury, or before the minor’s twentieth birthday, whichever is later.  So, where a two-year statute of limitations might otherwise apply, a claim involving children may be filed up to two years after they’ve reached eighteen.  Though this Pennsylvania law provides more time than before, parents should still act early and consult a Pennsylvania lawyer in order to secure their child’s rights.

Some types of actions in Pennsylvania require that plaintiffs provide notice to the responsible party before the lawsuit may be brought, and some require that formal notice be given in as little as six months after the accident.  These actions usually involve actions against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, its agencies, or local governmental agencies.  Failure to provide timely notice, without a reasonable excuse, may prevent plaintiffs from bringing an action against these types of defendant-entities.  It is important to consult with Pennsylvania lawyers experienced in practicing personal injury law as soon as possible after an injury-causing event to make sure that all filing and notice deadlines are met.

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