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Your Philadelphia Personal Injury Case: The Basics

Philadelphia is famous for its cheesesteaks, the Liberty Bell, and the Eagles, but did you know that Philadelphia was also the first city in the U.S. to design and open a courthouse exclusively for complex, multi-filed mass tort claims? That could be good news for your Philadelphia personal injury case. Personal injury claims are tort claims, usually based on the legal theory of negligence, and Philadelphia takes its tort claims seriously.

If you or a loved one has been injured in Philadelphia due to the negligent, reckless or wrongful act of another person or entity, you may be able to recover money for your losses based on a personal injury claim. This article has information about the law and procedure for a personal injury case in Philadelphia.

How much time do you have to bring your personal injury claim?

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on a person's ability to bring a case to recover money for an injury is generally two years. Usually this means you have two years from the time of the accident or injury to file your claim. In certain types of cases, like those involving medical malpractice, the time you have to the file the lawsuit begins when the injury is discovered, which is not necessarily when it actually occurred.

What if the accident was partly your fault?

In many states, if the victim of an injury is partially responsible for that injury, he is barred from recovering money from anyone else at fault under the doctrine of contributory negligence. However, in Philadelphia, state law provides that you can still recover money from another who is responsible for your injury as long as you are less than 50% at fault. This is because Pennsylvania follows a legal doctrine called modified comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, each person or entity that shares responsibility for the injury is responsible for paying his share of the damages, but only if the injured person is less than 50% responsible.

Here's an example: Polly is injured in a car accident that resulted partly from her own negligence and partly from the negligent driving of both Tom and Jeff. If Polly is found to be 40% at fault, and Tom and Jeff are each found to be 30% at fault, then Polly can recover 60% of the money that she has lost because of the accident: half from Tom and half from Jeff.

If more than one other person or entity was at fault for your injury, you might be able to recover the full amount of your losses from just one of people at fault under a doctrine called joint and several liability. Take our previous example of Polly, Tom and Jeff. If, for some reason, Polly is unable to recover the 30% of damages for which Jeff is responsible, she can recover the full 60% from Tom, leaving Tom to try to recover Jeff's share himself. Because Polly was 40% at fault, she can only recover 60% from Tom, not the full amount of her losses.

What may you receive compensation for in your personal injury claim?

In Pennsylvania, you can be compensated for certain losses that result from your injuries, including:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Past and future lost wages;
  • Loss of earning capacity;
  • Permanent disability and/or disfigurement;
  • Property damage;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life;
  • Loss of companionship;
  • Emotional distress; and
  • Expenses directly caused by your injury.

It's important to keep careful records of any expenses you incur as a result of your injury or the accident. Take a look at FindLaw's section on Injury Damages to learn more about how losses are calculated, caps on recovery, and your duty as the injured party to minimize the effects of an accident to limit losses.

If I want to file a claim, where do I start?

Many injury claims are handled by insurance companies that have agreed to pay for accidents or injuries involving their client. FindLaw's section on Injury Claims and Insurance has a wealth of information for you if you're going to be dealing with insurance companies.

If you're claiming losses of $50,000 or less and you've filed your claim with a Philadelphia civil court, your case will have to go through Philadelphia County's Compulsory Arbitration Program. For accidents and injuries involving major losses or complex injuries, it may be a good idea to consider hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury case.

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