People often wonder just what the term personal injury means and how it may apply to them if they are involved in some sort of accident such as: a traffic collision, slip and fall accident, motorcycle crash, dog bite incident, product liability, medical malpractice and even workers’ compensation. Most personal injury claims are handled in state court (or settled out-of-court). Pennsylvania permits victims/plaintiffs to collect damages even if they are partially to blame for the accident, but they must bring a lawsuit for compensation within a two-year time limit, per the Pennsylvania statute of limitations. Personal injury lawsuits are also referred to as civil lawsuits. Personal injury lawyers practice what is referred to as tort law, offering legal representation to plaintiffs physically and psychologically injured due to the negligence of any entity, government agency, another person or a company that does not exercise the degree of care expected of some entity or person in that situation and the end result is an injury. What is negligence? The basic definition of negligence, the underlying cause of personal injury accidents, is when any entity, a government agency, another person or a company does not exercise the degree of care expected of an entity or person in that situation and it results in an injury. Pennsylvania negligence laws state that damages in a lawsuit are to be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s degree of fault, or comparative negligence that caused an accident. You may have seen a reference to someone that breached the standard of care in a certain situation and thus may be held liable for damages. The presence or absence of negligence determines if someone has acted reasonably compared to how others would have acted in the same or similar situation. It is important to note that there are different standards for different situations. An example of this occurs when doctors and other health care professionals’ actions are examined. Medical professions are held to a much higher standard of care than the general public. They are required to perform their job as a reasonable MD, doctor, clinical psychologist, podiatrist, dentist, chiropractor, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, optometrist or a clinical social worker would. In other words, they are supposed to provide medical care up to the standard of reasonable, similar medical professionals. How the courts view negligence In most instances, negligent behavior is a signpost of whether or not a person or company is responsible to pay damages for someone else’s injuries. However, just because someone is negligent does not mean they are legally liable. Put another way, if an injured plaintiff is just as responsible for their own harm/injuries the defendant may not have to pay full damages. In Pennsylvania, and some other states, this is what is commonly referred to as the doctrine of comparative negligence, meaning the person who is deemed at fault for an accident only pays damages in proportion to their responsibility for the accident and the resulting injuries. Pennsylvania’s Comparative Negligence laws state a victim’s negligence is not a bar to receiving damages for their injuries, provided the plaintiff’s negligence is less than the defendant’s. Statute of limitations in Pennsylvania There are limits on how long after an injury accident you may file a civil lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is two years on fraud, trespass and personal injury claims and the limitations clock begins to tick on the date of the incident/accident or the discovery of the wrong. Your Erie personal injury lawyers at Melaragno, Placidi & Parini have your back. If you have been involved in a car accident, a slip and fall accident, motorcycle crash, truck collision or wish to discuss filing a wrongful death lawsuit, Melaragno, Placidi & Parini stand ready to help you navigate the legal process and obtain the equitable compensation you deserve.