To receive compensation for a personal injury accident, you must file a lawsuit. How do you file a personal injury lawsuit? The team of Philadelphia injury lawyers at Gibbons & Crichton, Personal Injury and Accident Lawyers explains.
Quick Checklist – Filing Personal Injury Lawsuits in Philadelphia, PA
To file a personal injury lawsuit in Philadelphia, PA, you need the following:
- Civil Cover Sheet
- Notice to Defend
- Entry Appearance, attorney or self
- Filing fee
Note: Other types of filings may have additional or different requirements.
Steps to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Philadelphia
1. Determine the court with jurisdiction over the case.
First, a plaintiff needs to know where to file your personal injury lawsuit. In Philadelphia, most likely, your case should be filed in the First Judicial District of the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County. There are 60 judicial districts in Pennsylvania, mostly organized by county.
Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware Counties have their own district courts.
Claims over $12,000 are filed in the Court of Common Pleas. In Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Municipal Court has jurisdiction over civil actions up to $12,000. (42 Pa. Code § 1123.) There is no right to a trial by jury in Municipal Court, but you may appeal to a Court of Common Pleas where you may receive a jury trial.
2. Prepare your documents.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit requires filing several documents. These documents give the basic case information and the grounds for the case. You must file:
Civil Cover Sheet
The Civil Cover Sheet provides the court with the basic information that they need to know about the case. It identifies the parties to the case, the type of case, the statutory basis for the claim and related cases, if any.
The complaint is at the heart of a personal injury lawsuit filing. It identifies the parties and basis for jurisdiction for the court to hear the case. The plaintiff states the facts, the legal claims and the relief that they are seeking. A complaint must contain the required information and follow a prescribed format.
Here’s an example for a Magistrate’s Court, but in the Court of Common Pleas, the plaintiff will need to prepare a detailed complaint with numbered paragraphs. There may be pleading requirements that are specific to the nature of your case.
Notice to Defend
The Notice to Defend formally puts the defendant on notice that they are being sued. It informs them that they have 20 days to respond by filing documents or having an attorney enter an appearance. It warns the defendants that if they fail to respond, a default judgment may be entered against them.
231 Pa. Code § 1024 requires every pleading containing a statement of fact to contain a verification. The verification affirms that the statement is true based on the personal knowledge and belief of the signer. It’s okay if you’re lacking some pieces of information. Here is an example of a verification from Delaware County.
Entry of Appearance
The court and the parties need to know if you are represented by legal counsel. If you are, your attorney files a notice of appearance. The document says that they’ll be representing you in the case.
If you’re representing yourself, you complete a Notice of Appearance of Self-Represented Party. The notice must contain an address and phone number where you agree to accept service of legal paperwork. You must update your information if it changes during the case. (231 Pa. Code § 1930.8).
3. File the case.
A case may be filed electronically or with paper documents in the court’s filing office. (234 Pa. Code § 576.1). You may use the Philadelphia Courts Electronic Filing System or the Philadelphia Municipal Court Electronic Filing System. If you file in person, don’t staple or bind your papers, because the court will need to scan them. Secure them with a binder clip. Bring at least three copies with you, and more if there are multiple defendants.
4. Pay the filing fee.
To file a personal injury lawsuit in Philadelphia, you must pay the filing fee. As of this writing, the fee is $596.16 for a personal injury case with jury demand. Without a jury demand, the fee is reduced. The Municipal Court uses a different fee schedule.
5. Serve your documents.
Even once you file your case, it doesn’t proceed until you serve the defendant with copies of the filing documents. 231 Pa. Code § 400.1 creates rules for service of process for all courts of the First Judicial District. Once service is made, you must complete and submit a certificate of service.
Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Without an Attorney in Philadelphia?
You can file a personal injury lawsuit without an attorney. However, you won’t be treated any differently.
You’ll be held responsible for following all the procedures and meeting deadlines. If your case is for a dollar amount that brings it within the jurisdiction of the Court of Common Pleas, it’s likely worth your while to have an attorney represent you.
We invite you to contact Gibbons & Crichton, Personal Injury and Accident Lawyers for a free consultation about your case. Learn more about how an attorney can help you in the complaint process and throughout your claim.
How can an attorney help?
When you have a personal injury attorney represent you, they take care of filing your case. That includes filing your personal injury lawsuit. They determine the court with jurisdiction, prepare the documents and take the steps to complete the filing. Then, they proceed to represent you in all aspects of your case.
Get Help Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Philadelphia
If you have been injured, you can have professional help from an attorney to file a personal injury lawsuit in Philadelphia — and at no immediate cost to you. Filing your lawsuit correctly and completely is an important first step in receiving the compensation that you deserve.
At Gibbons & Crichton, Personal Injury and Accident Lawyers, we help people like you get fair financial compensation when they suffer a personal injury. Our legal representation includes all aspects of your case, including your case filing. To see how we can assist you, call 215-274-0173 or message us today.
Local Rules of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Trial Division – Civil
Self-Help Guide to Filing a Civil Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas – First Judicial District