Under Pennsylvania law, there is a element to every cause of action known as the “Statute of Limitations.” Basically, you have a certain amount of time from the time your cause of action arose to bring a law suit, or you lose that right, potentially forever.
In civil actions, like personal injuries, contract disputes, or construction, the statute of limitations may range anywhere from six months to twenty-one years. For some rare causes of action, like an action against an attorney or an action brought by the Commonwealth, there is no statute of limitations. The most common limitation I run into deals with Personal Injury cases, or Torts. This applies to slip and falls, malicious prosecution, trespass, car accident, etc. That limitation is two years. So, if someone hits your car, you have only two years from the date of the accident to sue.
Another common statute of limitations deals with contracts. Here, you have five years from the date of breach. So, if you have a credit card, and you stop paying your balance, the credit card company has five years from your last payment to bring a case against you.
The reason I run into issue with the two year limitation on Torts actions so much is because people wait until the last second to sue. The person gets in a car accident, reports it to their insurance, and then never follows up. A year or so later, the person finds out that their insurance will not pay and the other driver was uninsured. This person now spends time trying to do research on their own, finally decides to hire an attorney, and I end up with less than six months to mail a settlement demand and file suit. In the legal realm, that is not a long time.
Or, I have a client who comes into for an initial consultation and tells me that their cause of action arose more than two years ago. This inevitably raises a harsh discussion of why that person may no longer sue. It can become rather awkward.
There is one option if you are not too far outside your statute of limitations. However, this involves asking a judge to ignore the law and allow you to sue. It is really tough to do sometimes. The best option is to not wait. Don’t leave it up to the judge to determine whether you receive a remedy for your legal issue.
Bottom line, if you think you have a cause of action, get a hold of an attorney as fast as possible. It will not always cost you money to simply inquire. I, for one, offer free consultations and take cases like car accidents on a contingency basis, so you don’t have to pay me until I win you some money. Even if you are waiting for the insurance to resolve the problem, or a friend told you to “give it some time”, you are dealing with strict limitations. Don’t wait, call today: 412-209-0657.