Amending a Personal Injury Complaint

In a personal injury case, a plaintiff wants to make sure to allege all the facts necessary to prove the causes of actions that the plaintiff wants the defendant to be found liable for.  However, if the plaintiff makes a mistake in the complaint, or discovers new facts after filing the complaint, the plaintiff may be allowed to amend the complaint in order to prevent the cause of action from being dismissed.

Generally, a court may, in furtherance of justice, allow a party in a lawsuit to amend any pleading or proceeding.   It is judicial policy to resolve all disputes between the parties on their merits.  This is why a court may allow amendment of the pleadings to put all such disputes at issue at the time of trial.

To amend a complaint, a plaintiff may need to make a motion to permit an amendment to a pleading.  A motion usually involves a court hearing so that each side may have due process on to argue whether or not the court should let the plaintiff go forth with the amendment.  For the defendant, there may be some prejudice or inconvenience involved when a complaint is amended.  For the plaintiff, if a plaintiff is not allowed to amend a complaint, the plaintiff may not be able to properly present a case.

An amended complaint relates back to the filing of the original complaint so long as both pleadings (1) rest on the same general set of facts, (2) involve the same injury, and (3) refer to the same instrumentality. This means the defendant may not defend based on a statute of limitations expiring.

Usually, an amendment that does nothing more than express a change of legal theory underlying the original complaint is allowable, even if additional incidental facts are alleged. As long as the defendant’s act for which the plaintiff seeks recovery is the same, and as long as the primary right which the plaintiff alleges to have been violated is the same, the amendment may be held to be based on the same general set of facts.

Generally, an amended pleading may also rest on a different legal theory for liability, and state a different cause of action, even against a defendant not named in the original complaint, and still relate back to the time the original complaint was filed if the plaintiff seeks recovery for the same accident and the same injuries.  This prevents the statute of limitations from barring recovery for the allegation based on a different legal theory.

Contact Philadelphia personal injury lawyers Solnick & Associates for a free consultation if you contemplate filing a wrongful death, personal injury, or workers’ compensation claim.