Litigation

Bingaman Hess has developed a substantial litigation practice. Our litigators offer clients many years of combined civil trial experience. Our litigation team is highly regarded in the Berks County legal community and is prepared to represent both individuals and businesses.

Concentrations of our litigation practice include:

  • Civil litigation
  • Commercial litigation
  • Lender liability litigation
  • Insurance defense law
  • Personal injury and accident claims
  • Products liability law
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Litigation of contracts and agreements
  • Serve as mediators and arbitrators

Litigation Questions

What do I do if I believe that it may be necessary to bring a lawsuit?

Arranging to meet with an attorney is the appropriate first step. He or she will meet with you in order to obtain and review all written and verbal information to determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate. Our attorneys will evaluate and make recommendations as to whether it makes sense to attempt resolution of your problem through discussions with your potential opposing litigant before a lawsuit is filed or if you could reasonably bring your lawsuit without the need for a lawyer.

What information will be provided by an attorney regarding how the lawsuit may progress?

An attorney will be able to provide general information about a lawsuit, including an estimate of how long the lawsuit may take until a resolution; the costs associated with the case; a written fee agreement; what your involvement in the care will be; and information on communications that you may expect from the lawyer.

What should I do if a lawsuit is filed against me?

Advise your attorney and insurance agent immediately. Many lawsuits will be handled by your automobile or homeowner’s insurance carrier. If the allegations fall under the coverages provided, the insurance carrier will select and pay for a lawyer on your behalf. By reporting a lawsuit immediately to your attorney, he or she can protect your interests so that no action is taken against you during the limited period of time that you may have to respond to the lawsuit.

What if I have no insurance coverages or my insurance carrier advises that my insurance will not provide coverage for the lawsuit against me?

The case will be fully analyzed and discussed with you with the same considerations as set forth in question 1 and 2 of this writing.

Can you help me with any type of litigation?

While we handle most types of litigation, these are certain specialty areas of law that we do not handle, such as patent, trademark, copyright, and tax cases. In most instances, we will be able to suggest attorneys, who involve themselves in these specialty areas of the law.

Are your litigation attorneys experienced?

Yes, the average practice experience for senior attorneys in our litigation team is in excess of 25 years.

Do you handle litigation outside of Berks County?

Yes, we regularly handle cases throughout Central, Eastern and Northeastern Pennsylvania including Berks County, Philadelphia County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Bucks County, Chester County, Monroe County, Luzerne County, Lackawanna County, Carbon County, Schuylkill County, Lehigh County, Northampton County, Lebanon County, Dauphin County, Lancaster County, York County, Adams County, Cumberland County, and Federal Courts in Reading, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Scranton, Williamsport and the Lehigh Valley.

What is a statute of limitations?

A statute of limitations is a device that requires you to file a lawsuit in a limited period of time. You may lose your right to sue if you do not comply with a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations may vary depending on the type of claim you wish to bring. For example, in most cases you only have two years to bring a personal injury claim. However, there is usually a four-year statute of limitations for most contract claims.

How do I file a lawsuit?

A lawsuit is typically started by the filing of a complaint, which sets forth an individual’s reasons for bringing the suit and the relief that is being sought. A lawsuit may also be started by the filing of a writ of summons, but, even in such a case, a complaint must eventually be filed. Under most circumstances, if an individual’s claim is less than $8,000.00, the suit must be filed with a magisterial district judge. If the claim is over $8,000.00, the lawsuit is filed in a court of common pleas. You should be aware of the claim limit that applies to the jurisdiction in which you are filing the lawsuit because the limits are not the same for all jurisdictions.

What are the Courts in Pennsylvania and What Do They Do?

Pennsylvania’s court system consists of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Superior Court, the Commonwealth Court, the Courts of Common Pleas, and “special courts.” The special courts are the Magisterial District Courts, Philadelphia Municipal Court, Philadelphia Traffic Court, and the Pittsburgh Magistrates Court.

The organization and hierarchical structure of these courts is best illustrated as follows:

  • Supreme Court
  • Superior Court
  • Commonwealth Court
  • Court of Common Pleas
  • Magisterial District Courts
  • Philadelphia Municipal Court
  • Philadelphia Traffic Court
  • Pittsburgh Magistrates Court

Each of these courts hears specific types of cases and matters. This is referred to as “subject matter jurisdiction,” which can be extremely complicated. In general, however, the special courts hear less serious civil cases and criminal cases, such as traffic violation cases. In addition, the magisterial district judges conduct hearings referred to as “preliminary hearings” to determine whether there is enough evidence in more serious criminal cases to proceed in the Courts of Common Pleas. In civil matters, magisterial district judges hear cases where the amount in controversy is $8,000.00 or less.

Most counties in Pennsylvania have a Court of Common Pleas, although some rural counties share a single judge. The Courts of Common Pleas hear major criminal cases and hear civil cases where the amount in controversy is more than $8,000.00. They also hear certain appeals from the special courts in civil, criminal, and traffic matters, and also appeals from decisions by the governing bodies of municipalities in zoning and subdivision cases. Additionally, the Courts of Common Pleas hear cases involving children and families, including divorce cases, adoption cases, custody matters and support matters. They also hear estate and probate matters. Except for murder cases in which the death penalty has been imposed, the Superior Court and the Commonwealth Court hear appeals from decisions of the Courts of Common Pleas. Again, the jurisdiction of all Pennsylvania Courts is very specific and can be very complex, but in general, the Superior Court hears appeals in criminal cases and civil appeals, except in cases where the Commonwealth is a party. The Superior Court also hears appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas in cases involving children and families, such as divorce cases, adoption cases, child support, and spousal support. The Commonwealth Court, while generally considered to be an appellate court, also hears original jurisdiction cases, which include suits brought by and against the Commonwealth and local agencies of the Commonwealth. (Original jurisdiction cases are filed in the Commonwealth Court in the first instance) The Commonwealth Court’s original jurisdiction also includes election cases. As an appellate court, the Commonwealth Court hears appeals from decisions from the Courts of Common Pleas involving the Commonwealth and local agencies, as well as direct appeals from the decisions of certain state agencies, including unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation appeals. The Commonwealth Court is a relatively new court, which was created by the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1968. By contrast, the Superior Court was established by the General Assembly in 1895.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the state’s highest court, both judicially and administratively. In legal matters, it is the court of last resort. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court hears appeals from the Superior and Commonwealth Courts by allowance. This means that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, like the United States Supreme Court, exercises its discretion in either accepting or rejecting appeals from the Superior Court and the Commonwealth Court. The Supreme Court also hears certain direct appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas which are specified by statute, including all death penalty cases and direct appeals from decisions of the Commonwealth Court in its original jurisdiction. In administrative matters, the Supreme Court has supervisory authority over all of the other courts of the state.