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Pennsylvania Personal Injury Laws

A personal injury can take a toll on your peace of mind and your finances. On top of the pain and suffering, your medical bills will likely continue to stack up if you have a lasting injury. You may also have to take time off from your job to recover, causing you to burn up sick leave if you have any and lose wages.

You could recover some financial relief with a personal injury lawsuit against the person or entity who you believe is responsible for it. Personal injury lawsuits can be complicated, though, and going into one unprepared and unrepresented may result in more strain.

If you've been injured in Philadelphia, Allentown or Pittsburgh, use LawInfo's Pennsylvania personal injury articles to learn about the laws surrounding your case and to find a qualified attorney.

Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice

When you sustain an injury from a medical procedure, you may have a medical malpractice case. Medical malpractice is a special corner of personal injury litigation that focuses on a health care provider's negligence.

Medical malpractice lawsuits tend to be very serious because damages can climb up to the millions of dollars. Pennsylvania doesn't limit how much a plaintiff can recover in actual damages (i.e. compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, etc.) from medical malpractice cases.

However, the state does limit how much you can recover in punitive damages (i.e. compensation levied against defendants as punishment) to 200 percent of the actual damages. If you were to be awarded punitive damages, 25 percent of them would be allocated to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Fund. (See the Pennsylvania MCARE Act § 505.)

Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations limits how much time after an injury occurs that a plaintiff has to pursue legal action against a defendant. Once the statute "runs out," a lawsuit cannot be pursued. Pennsylvania's civil statute of limitations includes:

  • Four years for written or oral contracts. 20 years for written contracts under seal.
  • Two years for fraud.
  • Two years for injury (or damage) to property.
  • Two years for personal injury.
  • Two years for wrongful death.
  • Two years for medical malpractice.

Proving Negligence in Pennsylvania

Fault is the central element in a personal injury lawsuit that will determine your eligibility for recovery. Determining fault in an injury accident isn't a quick or simple process in Pennsylvania courts, though. A Pennsylvania court determines fault by measuring a defendant's negligence.

A defendant's negligence is determined using two methods. In one method, the court compares the defendant's reactions surrounding the injuring incident with those of a "reasonably prudent" person.

For example, a reasonably prudent landlord would ensure that an apartment's circuit breaker was functioning to code prior to a new tenant moving in. If an electrical fire started in the electrical box causing damage to the tenant's personal property and the circuit breaker hadn't been inspected prior to move-in, the landlord may have been negligent.

The other method is the four elements of negligence. The four elements are questions that determine the degree of the defendant's negligence and its relevance to the plaintiff's injury. The four elements are:

  1. Duty—Did the defendant owe a duty of care to the plaintiff?
  2. Breach of Duty—Did the defendant breach that duty of care?
  3. Causation—Did the defendant's breach of their duty cause injury to the plaintiff and was the injury foreseeable?
  4. Damages—Does the plaintiff's injuries qualify as actual damages that can be financially recovered?

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney

Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.

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