Suffering an injury due to someone else’s wrongdoing can be overwhelming, and the road to compensation for damages just as much. The process takes both promptness and patience, particularly in Pennsylvania, where there are regulations regarding certain policies that are unique to the state. Here is a step-by-step guide to how to approach a personal injury claim in PA:
1. Have a Sense of Urgency
First and foremost, if you have been injured in any way, seek out medical treatment immediately to document the harm done. Next, consider the Pennsylvania statute of limitations before taking action.
Pennsylvania state law imposes a statute of limitations, or a specific time period, for you to take a personal injury to civil court. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Pennsylvania is two years after the initial incident (42 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. section 5524).
Acting within this time frame is critical because if you pass the two-year limit, the courts may refuse to hear your case, and you may forfeit your right to receive compensation.
2. Consider Fault and its Effects on Insurance Policy
When you are hurt or injured due to another person’s negligence, it is important to evaluate the insurance policies of all parties involved. Depending on the type of personal injury case you have, several Pennsylvania laws may apply.
For personal injury cases where both parties are at fault, Pennsylvania follows a “modified comparative negligence rule.” This means that if you are deemed to be partially at fault, the damages you are entitled to will be reduced by the percentage you were at fault. So, for example, if you are found to be 25 percent liable for an accident, you will only collect 75 percent of damages awarded to you from the case.
In car accident cases, PA follows a no-fault insurance system, which means that you will be provided coverage for all or some medical expenses and lost income by your own insurance company, regardless of who is at fault. An exception to this is if the injury sustained meets the threshold of being a “serious”. In these cases, you can pursue legal action against the at-fault party and secure compensation for various losses, including pain and suffering.
3. Determine if a Personal Injury Attorney is Necessary
The vast majority of civil cases are resolved with a settlement before they even reach trial. Depending on the type of insurance the other party has, you may be able to file a “third-party claim” against the at-fault person’s insurance carrier for compensation without involving the courts.
To do so, you must get the name of the other person’s insurance carrier and their policy number. Then, you would send a notice of claim to the company that includes both your information and the insured’s, the date of the accident, and a notification letter in which you declare that you were injured and intend to pursue a claim.
In the cases where a third-party claim cannot apply or does not suffice, you may ponder the possibility of hiring a lawyer. An initial consultation with an attorney at Freeburn Hamilton about your case is highly advised, and free of charge. Theoretically, you could manage your case alone, but insurance companies will often try to devalue and underpay claims. This could leave you without sufficient funds to cover the cost of all the expenses you incurred from the accident.
4. File a Lawsuit
Finally, with these previous steps considered, now would be the time to begin filing a complaint with the civil court. The complaint would be in the form of an official legal document that notes the clear conditions of your personal injury lawsuit. The beginning of the claim will acknowledge you as the plaintiff, the opposing party as the defendant, and the court you are filing the lawsuit in.
The next section will include specific points that explain the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, indicate the negligence that resulted in your allegations, state relevant facts, and describe the compensation that you are demanding from the defendant.
You may be asked to file a summons, which is a document that identifies the parties to the litigation and communicates to the defendant that they are being sued, thus summoning them to the civil court. This also usually consists of a signature of the court’s representative along with a seal of the court.
After filing the complaint and summons with the court, you must serve a copy of each to the defendant. The court will not have jurisdiction over the defendant and will not be able to impose any judgement without them.
Injured? Freeburn Hamilton is Here to Help.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to just compensation. The process of filing a claim could be complex — which is why your attorneys at Freeburn Hamilton are here to fight for you. Call today at 717-777-7777 for a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.