Statute of Limitations: When Is It Too Late to Sue?


There are many laws that can affect your personal injury suits, one of which is the statute of limitations. The law provides limitations restricting the time period that a person can file a lawsuit.  The law varies by state, as well as the type of cause of action. The time limitation serves the purpose of promoting timely litigation of cases and protecting people from unending threats of legal action. With that said, it is vital to immediately seek the assistance of legal counsel if you have been injured and contemplating legal action. Unfortunately, many victims are barred from recovery because they were unaware of the statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitation has expired, there is no turning back the hands of time — you permanently forfeit any legal recovery from the defendant.

Since the ability to sue is lost once the statute of limitations expires, it is essential to ensure you take immediate action and file your claim. Additionally, and probably most notably, it is important to know when the clock starts running and how long the clock will run for the particular type of legal action you seek.

When the Clock Starts to Run

In Pennsylvania, an action must be commenced within the time specified in the Pennsylvania Statute. The statute of limitations “clock” starts to run when the cause of action accrues. In negligence cases, accrual begins when all four elements of negligence – duty, breach, causation, and damages — are met. In a nutshell, once a person has been injured, it is said the clock starts to tick at that moment.

Under Pennsylvania law, personal injury cases have a two-year statute of limitations. If you were harmed or injured as a result of an individual’s negligence, it is likely the two-year limitation applies to your case.  Personal injury cases include automobile or bus accidents, construction site accidents, slip and falls, wrongful death, medical malpractice, products liability, and a host of others.

Different Time Limit for Medical Malpractice Cases

An exception applies to medical malpractice cases. In medical malpractice cases, the clock starts either from the date of the medically negligent act or the date at which the injury was reasonably or reasonably should have been discovered. The statute of limitation is seven years for medically negligent acts in Pennsylvania, meaning a person has seven years from discovery to file a lawsuit against the medical physician.

Another exception applies when the statute of limitations clock has been “tolled.”  Under certain circumstances the clock will temporarily stop. This typically includes situations where the victim of the injury was a minor at the time the injury occurred or the victim of the injury was not mentally competent at the time the injury occurred. Tolling provisions benefit the plaintiff by extending the time period in which he is permitted to bring suit. When the statute is tolled, the running of the time is suspended until some event as specified by law.

Mere ignorance of the existence of a cause of action generally will not toll the statute of limitations. It is important to know your rights by seeking legal representation. If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligent acts of another person, time is of the essence if you are considering legal recovery. At Solnick & Associates, LLC, our experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys will evaluate your case and inform you of your legal options. Contact us or call (215) 481-9979 today for a free confidential consultation.

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