The Killino Firm News

An Overview of Pennsylvania’s Personal Injury Law

Personal-injury actions involve injuries and deaths due to a variety of causes, including medical malpractice, other negligence, and defective products. This article contains an overview of Pennsylvania personal-injury law.

The Killino Firm’s Philadelphia accident and personal-injury attorneys have extensive experience with all types of personal-injury cases and a thorough knowledge and understanding of applicable Pennsylvania law. If you have been injured and suspect that your injuries were caused by an auto accident, dangerous product, medical malpractice, or other negligence, The Killino Firm can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

Pennsylvania Negligence Law

personal injury law PhiladelphiaIn order to recover damages caused by someone’s negligence, a plaintiff must establish that a defendant failed to fulfill a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, that this failure caused the plaintiff injury, and that the plaintiff suffered legally compensable damages as a result. Negligence claims are brought in a wide variety of personal-injury cases, including those arising out of the negligence of business and premises owners, doctors and other medical practitioners, drivers, and others.

Comparative Negligence

All states have some form of rule regarding the effect of a plaintiff’s own negligence in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. Pennsylvania’s “modified comparative negligence rule,” found at 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 7102, provides that a damages award to a plaintiff whose own negligence is found to have contributed to the plaintiff’s injury may be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. Thus, a plaintiff who was 10% at fault for his or her injury will be able to collect only 90% of the damages awarded. If the plaintiff’s percentage of fault is greater than the percentage of fault attributed to the defendant or defendants against whom recovery is sought, however, the plaintiff’s negligence will be a bar to the plaintiff’s recovery from the defendant or defendants.

Multiple-Defendant Liability

Pennsylvania’s Fair Share Act (the Act), which went into effect on June 28, 2011, had a significant effect on Pennsylvania negligence actions through its alteration of the law of joint-and-several defendant liability. Actions that accrued prior to the Act’s effective date are subject to the pre-Act joint-and-several liability rule, while those accruing after the Act’s effective date are subject to the new “fair share” rule.

Pennsylvania personal-injury actions must be filed within two years of the date an action accrues (which is generally the date an injury occurs, or, in some cases, the date an injury is discovered). Thus, the determination of the date an action accrued was necessary in some cases to ascertain whether the pre- or post-Act rules applied.

In actions that accrued prior to June 28, 2011, any one of multiple defendants whose negligence combined to cause an accident victim’s injury or death could be required to pay the entire judgment awarded in favor of a plaintiff. This is known as joint-and-several liability. Thus, if a defendant corporation with the ability to pay an entire judgment was held only 10% responsible for a victim’s injury or death while three other defendants with little or no ability to pay were each adjudged 30% responsible, the plaintiff would be able to collect the entire damages award from the defendant with the ability to pay, regardless of that defendant’s relatively small percentage of fault. In actions that accrue post-Act, however, the defendant corporation in this example would only be required to pay 10% of the damages awarded to the plaintiff, leaving the plaintiff with only the three insolvent defendants from which to attempt collection of the remaining 90%.

Though the above-described Fair Share rules apply in most post-Act cases, a few important exceptions exist. A post-Act defendant found at least 60% responsible for a plaintiff’s injury or death is subject to the old joint-and-several liability rule and may, thus, be required to pay the entire damages award. This provides a plaintiff with a better means of collection when the defendant with 60% or greater responsibility has the ability to pay. Defendants may also be subject to joint-and-several liability if they are found to have engaged in intentional misrepresentation, an intentional tort, the release or threatened release of hazardous substances under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act, or the serving of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron.

Damages Caps

Pennsylvania law limits the amount of punitive damages available in medical malpractice actions against an individual physician to 200% of the compensatory damages awarded, unless the physician’s intentional misconduct was alleged.

Car Accident Rules

Under 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 1705, Pennsylvania allows drivers to choose from two types of car insurance. Under the “limited tort” option, an injured accident victim may bring a lawsuit against a negligent driver to recover damages for the victim’s medical and out-of-pocket expenses, but not for the victim’s pain and suffering and other nonmonetary damages unless the victim’s injuries fall within the statutory definition of “serious injury.” The “full tort” option allows an accident victim the unrestricted right to seek compensation through legal action for injuries caused by other drivers.

Product Liability

Under Pennsylvania law, the manufacturer of a defective product and others involved in the product’s production and distribution may be found liable for personal injuries and deaths caused by defects in the product, regardless of the defendants’ fault or lack thereof. The defects leading to such strict liability may occur in the design or manufacturing stage or as a result of a failure to warn of dangers associated with a product’s use.

Obtain Expert Assistance from The Killino Firm, P.C.

The Killino Firm’s Philadelphia personal-injury lawyers have been recognized around the country for their expertise in personal-injury cases. Contact The Killino Firm for experienced and aggressive assistance with your medical malpractice, car accident, or product-liability action.

The Killino Firm's highly experienced and dedicated team of personal injury, defective products, and wrongful death lawyers and paralegals, headed by attorney Jeffrey Killino, represents clients throughout the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area in a wide variety of personal injury and wrongful death matters.
They handled my suit very professionally and would use them again if I had the chance.
Lawsuit case
Date published: 07/23/2015
5 / 5 stars