What Is the Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations?

When we talk about the law, we often refer to what’s known as a statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations apply to both civil and criminal charges. Simply put, they refer to the timeframe in which a party is eligible to seek legal action. In the case of filing lawsuits, it refers to the timeframe in which a party that wants recourse can file a suit. If you, as a plaintiff, miss that deadline, defendants may walk away from their wrongdoings.


The clock begins to click on a civil action from the moment the legal grounds for a claim occurs. Courts refer to this moment, the one in which you have a basis to sue, as the accrual of the cause of action. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two years, so if you think you have been a victim of substandard medical care, you have two years from the date of the incident to officially file a claim. However, if you have been injured as a result of someone’s negligence such as a slip, trip & fall accident for example, seek the help of an attorney regardless of the statute of limitations. There are contingencies that allow you to pursue legal claims even after that deadline. For example, in some cases, a statute of limitations can start on the day that a party should have known something was wrong, rather than the date of the incident itself. You may not be aware of a post-operative infection until you start to display symptoms, so a court may decide that the statute of limitations be extended to two years from the date you fell ill. This is known as the Discovery Rule.


Statutes of limitations have other exceptions. Minors, for example, can sue up to two years after their 18th birthdays. A medical malpractice case involving birth injury, then, can have a statute of limitations for up to 20 years. To qualify for this exemption, minors must be emancipated—non- emancipated minors have the standard two years, just as adults. Wrongful death claims also follow a slightly different course than other personal injury cases. In the case of wrongful death due to injury, parties have two years after the date of death to file a claim—not two years from the date of injury.


Most personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of about two years, not counting the exceptions noted above. Just because you have two years to file a claim, however, does not mean you should wait that long. Consider the following dos and don’ts:

  • DO be proactive. If you suspect you have been a victim of negligence, get in touch with an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney from the Hill & Associates as soon as possible, even if you are not sure you have a case. Our law firm offers a free initial consultation in which we will let you know if you have legal grounds for a claim.
  • DO document everything. Save anything you think may be pertinent to the case, no matter how small. If you have been in a car accident, for example, take pictures if possible, and ask for copies of documentation from the insurance companies and hospitals. There is no such thing as too much evidence.
  • DON’T feel that you have to pay the price for someone else’s negligence. We are all required by law to exercise reasonable care around one another. If someone fails to do so, he or she should pay the price.

Medical bills and lost wages from missed work can take their toll on your finances. If you have been a victim of negligence, call the personal injury lawyers at Hill and Associates to take advantage of our free case evaluation. Contact us on (215) 567-7600 and get in touch with one of our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers today.