Superior Court of Pennsylvania Case Reviews When Specific Claims For Serious Injury Must Be Filed in Personal Injury Suit
A Pennsylvania couple injured in a car accident was recently granted relief by the Superior Court when the decision of summary judgment against them was reversed and remanded. The couple had elected the limited tort option when they purchased automobile insurance. The limited tort option under the Motor Vehicle and Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) allows a party covered under the insurance contract to pay less for premiums, but in return the policy-holder can only recover medical costs. Pain and suffering is generally not available unless the injured person or persons suffered a serious injury. The wife had filed for loss of consortium, which is considered “non-economic damages” under the law, so she would have to show she suffered a serious injury because she chose the limited tort option. The woman filed her claim for loss of consortium in her complaint on June 27, 2011, which was less than two years from the date of the hospital visit when the wife was diagnosed with a back sprain, but more than two years from the date of the accident.
All personal injury claims must adhere to the statute of limitations that applies. In general, one must file a claim for damages within two years of the date of the injury-causing accident, or the discovery of the injury. The injured couple argued that the two-year window for making a claim related to a serious injury began from the date of the diagnosis. The insurance company for the at-fault party claimed that the two-year window began on the date of the accident. The trial court agreed with the at-fault party’s insurance company and issued a summary judgment against the injured couple.
The Superior Court determined that the central consideration was whether or not the injured parties should have been reasonably aware of their impaired conditions on the date of the accident. The court felt that it was settled the wife knew she suffered a back injury on the date of the car accident, but the question remained whether she knew it rose to the level of a “serious injury.” The court reviewed several medical records that documented the wife’s medical care. The wife saw a physician soon after the accident and began treatments. The doctor did not advise her to consider surgery until seven months after her accident, when all the “conservative treatment” options failed. The wife elected to keep using home exercise, but the condition of her back continued to deteriorate. The doctor ultimately concluded that it wasn’t until a full year after the accident that he could have made the determination that the wife sustained serious impairment of a significant bodily function. Based on this timeline, the court felt the claim fell well within the two years of discovery, and that summary judgment was improper.
This case shows the need to have qualified Pennsylvania car accident attorneys at your side. Our knowledge of case law and extensive litigation experience can help you maximize the amount of damages available for recovery under the law. If you have been injured in a Pennsylvania car accident, contact one of the attorneys for a free, confidential consultation at 570-344-1266.