Workers who are injured in a work related accident often want to know answers to questions such as, “do I have a case worth pursuing?” and “how long will my work accident case take to resolve?”
How Long Will Your Pennsylvania Work Accident Lawsuit Take?
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula or timeline that applies to a work accident lawsuit in Pennsylvania. The reality is that the facts and legal issues will determine how long a given case takes. You also have to factor in the number of parties in the case. A typical work accident lawsuit with 5 defendants will probably take longer to resolve than a case with only 1 defendant. In addition, the county where the lawsuit is eventually filed can also have an effect on how long the case takes to resolve. While some county courts place cases on a schedule, many do not. Cases filed in counties which impose schedules will generally resolve faster than cases filed in counties which do not impose schedules.
For instance, in Philadelphia, work accident lawsuits are treated like other tort cases and placed on specific schedules or tracks: expedited, standard, and complex. In general, most work accident cases will be placed on the standard or complex track; that’s because most work accident lawsuits involve multiple parties and issues.
Complexity of the Factual and Legal Issues
In general, the more complex the issues, the longer the case takes to resolve. Two important factual issues which determine how long the case takes to resolve are 1. how serious the injuries are, and 2. whether the injuries have healed fully. That’s because serious permanent injuries result in extensive medical treatment and often result in permanent disability, which in turn lead to additional case work up, such as evaluations by vocational experts, i.e., professionals who determine whether an individual is employable and in what context.
For example, a workplace fall accident lawsuit involving multiple spinal fractures with surgical placement of pins and which results in permanent disability will naturally take longer than a case involving a broken arm with no surgery and no residual symptoms.
Many work accident cases in Pennsylvania involve complex legal issues, and the more complex the issues, the longer the case takes to resolve. A common work accident legal issue which may arise is the “statutory employer” defense which is typically raised by a general contractor in a construction accident case where the plaintiff (injured worker) is an employee of a subcontractor.
Depending on the legal issue and how the case resolves at the trial level, either party may appeal, in which case, the appeal can take several years.
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