Both in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there is typically a two year Statute of Limitations for personal injury cases. This means that the lawsuit, whether a slip and fall accident or a motor vehicle accident, must be filed within two years of the accident date.
For example, if a pedestrian trips and falls while walking in a residential neighborhood in Philadelphia due to the sidewalk being uneven in front of a home on 1/1/2014, he has until 12/31/2015 to file a lawsuit against the homeowner or parties responsible for his fall due to the dangerous, uneven condition of the sidewalk.
The two year time period is the general rule, and a different Statute of Limitations applies to minors or certain types of cases. For example, a minor under the age of 18 has two years from his 18th birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Though the minor may wait until he turns 20 to file the personal injury lawsuit, it may not be advisable to wait. If the accident happened when the minor was 10 years old and a lawsuit is filed when the minor turns 20 years old, evidence may be lost during those 10 years. Medical records necessary to prove the minor's injury from the accident may be difficult to locate. In addition, memories fade over time; an eyewitness is likely to forget critical details about an accident or incident 5 or 10 years later.
If a lawsuit is filed before the minor's 18th birthday, the minor's parent(s) or natural and legal guardian(s) would have to file the lawsuit on behalf of the child.
Another type of case where the two year Statute of Limitations may not apply is in a PA or NJ medical malpractice case. Sometimes victims of medical malpractice may not know or discover that medical malpractice was committed until much later. For instance, a doctor fails to diagnose a patient with lung cancer, and the patient does not discover that he has cancer until he sees a different doctor two years later. The new doctor tells him that the cancer was present in his diagnostic films from two years ago. If the cancer was discovered by the doctor two years ago, the patient's chance to beat the cancer would have been 100%. However, because of the doctor's failure to diagnose, his chances of survival are less than 40%. If the general Statute of Limitations applied in this situation, the patient would not be able to file a lawsuit. However, the general Statute of Limitations does not apply in this case. Rather, the two year Statute of Limitations starts on the day the patient reasonably discovered that his prior doctor failed to properly diagnose him, i.e., on the day he saw the new doctor and discovered his old doctor didn't see the cancer in his diagnostic films.
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