Your Harrisburg Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Your son was jogging on a summer evening at Riverfront Park when a dog ran up and bit him. Your wife was shopping for fresh produce at the Broad Street Market when she slipped and fell on a wet floor. Your cousin got food poisoning after a pork barbecue sandwich at a food court. Your father had a hip implant that was defective and required additional surgery. Personal injuries can happen in all sorts of settings, and can be confusing and upsetting for everyone involved. Here is a guide to help you and your loved ones with personal injury cases in Harrisburg.
Should You Get A Lawyer?
In some cases, personal injury matters are resolved directly with insurance companies and no attorneys are involved. Here are some tips from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for getting your claim paid. If you want to file a complaint against an insurer, you can do so through the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance.
Depending on the extent of the injuries, however, you may consider retaining a lawyer to help you navigate the administrative aspects of your claim while you focus on getting better. Check out FindLaw's section on Using A Personal Injury Lawyer for sample forms and information on how an attorney can help you.
If you do wish to pursue legal action, remember that you only have a certain period within which to file a lawsuit -- this is called a Statute of Limitations, and it varies by state and type of claim. For personal injury cases in Harrisburg and the rest of Pennsylvania, it is generally 2 years.
If you file a lawsuit, it will likely be heard at the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, or, if the amount you are seeking is $12,000 or less, before a Magisterial District Judge. Here is a helpful pamphlet that explains the process of bringing a claim before a Magisterial District Judge.
Who Is At Fault?
Determining who is at fault in a personal injury accident can sometimes be complicated. In many personal injury cases, one party alleges that the other was negligent. Negligence basically means carelessness that caused or contributed to the accident.
But sometimes both parties were negligent -- what happens then? In Harrisburg and the rest of the state, under the theory of comparative negligence, as long as your negligence was not greater than the other party's, you can still pursue an action, although your damages will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. So, for example, if you are claiming damages of $1000 and you were 30% at fault, you would still be able to pursue your claim against the other party for $700 or 70%.
What Can I Recover?
Recovery in personal injury cases is usually referred to in terms of "damages." Basically, damages are monetary compensation for the effects of an injury. Generally, they are classified as either "economic" (tangible items such as medical expenses, property damage and lost wages) or "non-economic" (intangible items such as pain and suffering), and an injured plaintiff can seek both. In limited circumstances, punitive damages may be awarded to punish or deter behavior. If someone dies as a result of the negligence of another, the surviving representative may bring a wrongful death action.
On The Job Injuries
Generally, injuries that you sustain while working are heard through the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers' Compensation. You may refer to their brochure for additional information on workplace injuries and illnesses. With respect to deadlines, note that you should report your injury to your employer right away, but by no means any later than 120 days after the injury. If your claim is denied, you have 3 years from the date of injury to file a petition.
Still Have Questions?
Check out FindLaw's section on Accidents and Injuries for more information on car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, workers' compensation and more.