Personal injury law protects individuals who are injured as a result of someone else’s negligence. It’s possible that a government agency is the party who is fully or partially responsible. When that happens, victims still may be able to seek compensation for medical bills and more. But it’s important to know that the legal time limit to file a personal injury claim is different when the government is involved. Below is a breakdown of the differences between personal injury claims against the government and claims against everyone else.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury
Under Pennsylvania law, a person has two years from the date of the injury to file a claim against negligent parties. When a minor sustains injuries, the Pennsylvania statute of limitations does not start until the child’s 18th birthday. The same rules do not apply to governmental injury claims in Pennsylvania.
You Have Six Months to File a Government Injury Claim in Pennsylvania
Injury claims involving the government have shorter time limits. Failure to act quickly could mean being barred from ever seeking justice and compensation – even if you deserve it.
Victims must file a claim against a government unit within six months from the date they sustained the injury. After that time frame, Pennsylvania law will dismiss the action.
To add to the legal complexities, there are a few caveats. They apply to claims against a government unit other than the Commonwealth government:
- The six-month limit does not begin for up to 90 days if an injured person is unable to file a claim due to incapacitation or disability from the injury.
- When an injury results in death, the time limit begins at the date of death.
- If the government unit had adequate notice of the incident that prompted the claim, the time limit for the victim is different.
This is just a snapshot of the complicated rules that arise when filing an injury claim against the government.
One thing is clear across the board, however. A person has far less time to file a personal injury lawsuit against a government agency. That’s why it’s critical to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyer right away.
Exceptions to Pennsylvania Sovereign Immunity
The State of Pennsylvania has what’s called “sovereign immunity,” which gives the state immunity against civil and criminal lawsuits. In the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 42 explains the exceptions to sovereign immunity in the state. These exceptions include these kinds of liability suits (and several others):
- Motor vehicle liability involving a vehicle owned or controlled by the Commonwealth
- Medical malpractice involving acts of health care employees of Commonwealth agency medical facilities, institutions or parties
- Care, custody or control of personal property including personal property owned or held by the Commonwealth
- Commonwealth real estate, highways and sidewalks that have dangerous conditions
- Potholes and other dangerous conditions on roads under Commonwealth jurisdiction. The claimant must show that there was a “reasonably foreseeable risk” of the kind of injury he or she sustained. The claimant must also show that the agency had written notice of the condition with enough time to fix the problem.
- Care, custody or control of animals such as police dogs and horses and animals in agency laboratories.
- Liquor liability, such as Pennsylvania liquor store sales to a minor, a person visibly intoxicated, or a person known to be habitually intoxicated (see dram shop law)
In these instances, the Pennsylvania General Assembly waives sovereign immunity to an action against Commonwealth parties for damages arising out of negligence. In other words, individuals may bring the above suits against a Pennsylvania government agency.
Filing the Notice
Within six months from the date of the injury, victims must send a written notice to the governmental agency they allege is responsible. For claims against the state, victims must send the notice to the Attorney General.
The signed statement must include:
- The name and address of the person whom the claim is against (if there is one)
- The name and address of the injured person
- The date, hour and approximate location of the accident
- The name and residence or office address of any attending physician
Pennsylvania law can dismiss any claim that does not provide the appropriate notice within six months.
How We Helped a Person Make the Governmental Claim Deadline
A client came to Ostroff Godshall Injury and Accident Lawyers with 24 hours left before her six-month time limit expired. Although she had a strong case, other law firms would not help her.
But at Ostroff Godshall Injury and Accident Lawyers, we think outside the box.
Getting started as her legal representatives would have taken her over her time limit to file. So, our firm wrote the exact Notice of Claim letters she needed to make the deadline. We found the proper addresses for her. She took the custom letters to hand serve PennDOT and the City of Harrisburg on the last possible day. We obtained proof that she served both agencies.
We didn’t say to her: “Too late, you’re on your own.”
Our firm didn’t turn our backs. We didn’t tell her what to do in general terms either. The notice letters had to be highly specific. We made sure she had exactly what she needed to get a chance at obtaining justice.
Our Fearless Legal Advocates Can Help
Negligent parties must answer for the injuries they cause – even when it’s the government. If it happened to you, you must act quickly. Once the statute of limitations runs out, there’s no chance to recover for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.
Appropriate medical attention is always the first priority. Then, contacting an experienced injury lawyer is crucial.
The attorneys at Ostroff Godshall Injury and Accident Lawyers have built a reputation as outstanding legal advocates who aggressively represent their clients. We work tirelessly to maximize compensation. We’re not afraid to stand up to big defendants – even the Pennsylvania government – when they let someone get hurt.
If you suffered injuries as a result of negligence, contact Ostroff Godshall Injury and Accident Lawyers right away. We’ll get to work investigating your case and ensuring that the statute of limitations does not bar you from seeking compensation.