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Legal Terminology for Pennsylvania Personal Injury Accident Lawsuits

If you are thinking of filing a personal injury lawsuit after an accident in Pennsylvania, you will no doubt encounter many legal terms.  Unless you are a lawyer, most people won’t know what they mean.  Below is a glossary of common legal terms in a PA personal injury accident lawsuit resulting from accidents such as: car accidents, slip and fall accidents, trip and fall accidents, dog bite attacks, and sports accidents.


This is the legal document an injured accident victim files to initiate a PA personal injury lawsuit.  The complaint contains information as to how the accident happened, the injuries the accident victim sustained as a result of the accident and the damages the accident victim sustained such as medical costs and pain and suffering.

Statute of Limitations

In Pennsylvania, an accident victim has 2 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.  For instance, a pedestrian hit by a car in Center City, Philadelphia on May 1, 2015 has until April 30, 2017 to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.  If the pedestrian files after the 2 year period, he will lose his right to file a lawsuit even if there is no doubt that the driver caused the accident.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule.  For instance, if a victim is a minor, he has until 2 years after he turns 18 to file a lawsuit.  Other exceptions may apply in medical malpractice cases.  See PA & NJ Personal Injury Law-How Much Time Do You Have To Sue?


This is a phase in the litigation process where parties exchange information.  Parties exchange paper discovery called interrogatories and request for production of documents.

Interrogatories are essentially questions a party has for the other party about the accident, injuries, damages, insurance coverage and any other relevant information a party wants to discover. 

A request for production of documents asks the other party to provide any documents that may be relevant to the accident, such as the police report, medical records, insurance coverage information and photographs.


Typically, after written discovery is exchanged, lawyers will schedule depositions of the parties (plaintiffs and defendants), witnesses and/or expert witnesses.  In a deposition, a lawyer questions an opposing party or witness, and the party or witness must answer the questions.  The entire deposition is recorded by a court reporter, and there will be a transcript of the deposition.  Prior to the commencement of a deposition, the person being deposed must take an oath that he is going to tell the truth.

Settlement Conference

Prior to trial, Pennsylvania courts will schedule a settlement conference in front of a judge with all parties of the lawsuit.  The parties’ lawyers must attend the conference, and the parties may or may not be required to attend depending on the judge.  Lawyers for each side, i.e., plaintiff’s attorney and defense attorney, are expected to attend the settlement conference with their demands and offers.  If the parties cannot agree to settle, the case is put on a trial list.

Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR)

At any stage of the litigation, but typically after parties have exchanged written discovery and depositions have been conducted, parties may attempt to settle the case to avoid going to trial.  There are different types of alternative dispute resolutions, including mediation and arbitration.

At a mediation, the parties try to settle the case with a mediator who helps the parties come to an agreement.  The mediator points out strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case to help the parties understand the value of the case.  The mediator does not decide the outcome of the case.  Rather, the mediator will talk to each party separately and facilitate a settlement.  If the parties do not settle in a mediation, then the case will go to trial, or the case may be arbitrated at a later date.

At an arbitration, the parties try to settle the case in front of an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators.  Unlike mediation, arbitrations are usually binding.  In other words, whatever the arbitrator decides after hearing each side’s case, an award for the plaintiff or a defense verdict, it is binding and cannot be appealed.  

Pain and Suffering Damages

Pain and suffering is a type of damage claim injured victims may financially recover for in a personal injury lawsuit.  Pain and suffering is the physical and emotional distress stemming from the accident and injury.  Pain and suffering is different for each accident victim.  There is no magic formula that calculates the value of a victim’s pain and suffering; it depends on the facts and how the victim’s life is affected after the accident.

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