Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit: A Step-By-Step Guide for Pennsylvania

“Personal injury” is the term used when someone’s negligence caused someone else’s injuries. Personal injury law allows accident victims to claim compensation for their injuries (also known as “damages”) and other misfortunes. If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation to cover medical bills, property repair costs, lost wages due to injuries forcing you to miss work, pain and suffering, and much more!

Do you believe you have a personal injury case, but need a little clarification on how to get started? Keep reading for a simple, step-by-step guide to filing a personal injury lawsuit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and getting the compensation you deserve!

Step 1: Don’t Procrastinate

Every state has a “statute of limitations” that restricts the amount of time you have to file your personal injury case after being injured. The statute of limitations for personal injury in Pennsylvania is two years, according to AllLaw. After that window, you may lose your right to receive compensation.

Step 2: Determine if an Insurance Policy Covers the Incident 

This is important because it can determine whether or not you’d actually be able to collect any damages a jury awards you after a personal injury trial. Having a judgment in your favor is one thing, but being able to collect on that judgment is another story. If the defendant has inadequate insurance coverage and very little in the way of assets, you might be left with no compensation to claim. Consider the extent of your injuries and whether your own insurance coverage might provide an acceptable solution. If you weren’t seriously hurt, or fault for the accident isn’t clear-cut and you have health insurance coverage, AllLaw recommends thinking twice before filing a lawsuit against someone who has no insurance. On the other hand, if your injuries are significant and there was clear negligence from another party that caused your accident, you’ll probably want to proceed whether or not the at-fault party is covered by an insurance policy.

Step 3: Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

If you have any significant injuries, AllLaw recommends discussing your case with a personal injury attorney. If you’re not sure if you have a case, contact our legal team for a free case evaluation.

Step 4: To File Or Not To File?

The majority of personal injury cases reach a settlement before trial, and many are resolved before a civil lawsuit is even filed.

In some situations, it’s worth considering the ways that you can recover compensation without filing a lawsuit. Where insurance coverage is in place, you can file a “third-party claim” against the at-fault person’s insurance carrier. You’d start by getting the name of the other person’s insurance carrier and their policy number. Then, you’d send the company a notice of claim that includes the insured person’s information, your information, the date of the accident, and a notification letter in which you declare that you were injured and intend to pursue a claim.

Step 5: Complete the Summons and Complaint 

The complaint is a formal legal document that identifies the legal and factual basis for your personal injury lawsuit.

The beginning of the complaint will identify you (the plaintiff), the defendant, and the court you’re filing your lawsuit in.

The next section will consist of numbered sentences or paragraphs that explain the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, identify negligence behind your allegations, state the related facts, and explain what damages you’re demanding from the defendant.

Many jurisdictions will require you to file a summons, a document that identifies the parties to the litigation and explains to the defendant that they are being sued. The summons also usually contains a signature of the court’s representative and the seal of the court.

After you file the complaint and summons with the court, you need to serve a copy of each on the defendant. This is absolutely critical because otherwise, the court will not have jurisdiction over the defendant and can’t impose any judgment.

Step 6: Wait for the Defendant’s Response

The defendant can either file an “answer” to your complaint, in which the defendant admits or denies each of your numbered allegations or the defendant can state that they neither admit nor deny the allegations.

Alternatively, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss. If the court grants this motion, it can mean dismissal of either your entire claim or a portion of it.

Injured in Pittsburgh? You have peace of mind and the compensation you deserve at your fingertips. Set up a free case evaluation by calling (412) 918-1241 or sending us a message online.

Scanlon & Wojton, Attorneys at Law

The Mitchell Building

304 Ross Street, Suite 510

Pittsburgh, PA, 15219

Phone: (412) 918-1241

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9 Responses
  1. It’s great that you pointed out that you should hire a lawyer when trying to file a personal injury claim. I would think that you should find a lawyer that has done this kind of case before. With the right kind of experience on your side, you should win every injury case.

  2. Awesome write-up. I am a regular visitor of your site and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the excellent site. I will be a regular visitor for a long time. Letizia Cobbie Maise

  3. You make a great point about how many jurisdictions will require summons filed. I need to get a lawyer for my brother Dan since he is splitting assets with his ex. I’ll have to get someone who has won divorce cases in the past.

  4. It really helped when you talked about the importance of dealing with your case before the time runs out. Recently, one of my friends was injured at his job. He’s not sure if he should file a legal complaint or not, but he needs help with his medical bills, so I’ll be sure to share this article with my friend. Thanks for the information on personal injury claims and how to deal with one.

  5. Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that will
    make the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  6. I appreciated it when you shared that it is important to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney if you are involved in an auto accident. My friend just mentioned the other day that she is worried about her brother who was involved in a car crash a few weeks ago. I will suggest to her hiring a reliable personal injury lawyer who can help with the case.

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