In personal injury cases, there is a statute of limitations that requires a victim to file an official lawsuit before a specific cut-off date or they will forfeit their right to collect compensation. In Pennsylvania, the “statute of limitations” varies depending on the age of the dog bite victim.
The statute of limitations requires when a lawsuit must be filed before the victim’s legal claim is permanently barred. Therefore, if you wait until after the statute of limitations, you no longer have the right to collect compensation – even if you have strong evidence regarding the dog’s owner’s neglect.
Each state sets its own rules for how long you have to file, and Pennsylvania has a two-year limit on dog bites and attacks. You must file your lawsuit with the court within that two-year window. The clock starts from the date of the initial attack; therefore, you must have your lawsuit filed before the second anniversary mark.
Special Limits when the Victim Is under the Age of 18
In Pennsylvania, the law extends the statute of limitations until the child reaches his or her 20th birthday. In most cases, however, the parents of the child will file a lawsuit for compensation well before their child reaches the age of 20, instead of waiting for what could be over a decade, so evidence is protected, witnesses are still around, and the claim is still “fresh.”
Does the Discovery of Harm Rule Apply?
In some personal injury claims, there is a “discovery of harm” rule that extends the time you have to file, but this rarely would apply in a dog attack case. The reason for this is because the date of the attack is the date of discovery. You know an animal attacked you on that date.
Usually, the discovery of harm applies to medical malpractice claims. For example, a patient is misdiagnosed but doesn’t receive the proper diagnosis until four years later. In this case, the patient’s statute of limitations starts from the time they discovered they were the victim of malpractice rather than the date the misconduct occurred.
Why Is There a Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations protects both parties involved in injury lawsuits, but in different ways. Some reasons the states issue these statutes include:
- Ensuring evidence is not lost, misplaced, or destroyed. Evidence does not last forever. You might misplace evidence you collected, a laboratory may dispose of it once it is too old, and police reports are harder to track down when they go beyond so many years. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that the victim has access to powerful evidence that will help prove their case and so that the defendant has access to evidence that may prove they were not at fault.
- Keeping witness testimony fresh in the witness’s mind. It is easy to forget even minor details a few days after witnessing something; imagine how hard it would be to recall a dog attack five years down the road. Even at the statutory timeframe of two years, it can be next to impossible – which makes it harder for witnesses on your side to testify under oath about what they saw.
- Giving the victim access to compensation quickly. You need compensation for your pending medical bills, bills you have already paid, time off work, and your pain and suffering. While you could wait years, why do so? Instead, the sooner you file an injury lawsuit, the quicker you receive compensation.
- Ensuring the defendant has the means to pay. The longer you wait to file your claim, the more likely a defendant’s financial situation will change. While it could change for the good, it could also change for the bad – such as losing their job, becoming disabled, or selling assets. By filing soon, you can ensure you file a claim with their homeowner’s insurance and receive compensation before they no longer carry that policy.
Bottom Line: Filing Your Dog Attack Lawsuit Quickly Is the Only Way to Ensure You Get the Compensation You Deserve
The only way to ensure you get the compensation you need and the amount you deserve after a dog attack is to file your lawsuit as quickly as possible. While the first place you should go is the emergency room following a dog attack to get medical treatment, the next place to visit is a personal injury attorney’s office. You need someone ready to fight for your right to compensation.
Attorney Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq., is that attorney. He has helped countless families, children, and individuals fight for their right to compensation. Just some compensation you are entitled to after a dog attack includes:
- Past, present, and future medical costs associated with the incident;
- Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity if you become disabled;
- Disfigurement and permanent disability compensation; and
- Compensation for your physical pain, emotional trauma, and mental anguish.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a dog attack, do not wait until the end of your time limit to call an attorney. The faster you contact an attorney, the easier it will be to gather the evidence you need to prove your case.