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Florida Personal Injury Statute of Limitations (The Complete Guide)

November 03, 2021

Statute of Limitations

Florida – like other states – has deadlines for filing personal injury claims. Injury victims must file a claim in court before the deadline. If they do not, their claims are lost forever, and they will receive no compensation for their injuries. Hire an injury lawyer as soon as possible so that you do not miss the statute of limitations.

Your attorney will need time to investigate your case before the statute of limitations has run, so you should not wait to hire a lawyer after an accident resulting in injury.

Hire an attorney as soon as possible so they can protect your legal rights. Without a lawyer, evidence can disappear, and you might accidentally say something to the insurance company that can hurt your case. Learn more about Florida’s personal injury statute of limitations with this complete guide.

The Statute of Limitations That Applies To Your Case

The Florida Statutes set the statute of limitations on various types of claims. The deadline that applies to your case will depend on the type of claim you have. If you have multiple claims, you must be aware of the deadline that comes first. Below are the Florida statutes of limitations for some of the most common personal injury claims:

Negligence Cases

Here in Florida, most claims based on negligence have a statute of limitations of four years. A common negligence case is a car accident claim. (Car accident cases also include truck and motorcycle accidents, bicycle injuries, and pedestrian accidents.) An injury victim must prove that a driver was negligent and that this negligence caused their injuries. The negligent driver must then pay for the injuries and losses that they caused.

Another common negligence case is premises liability. Landowners must maintain their property in a safe condition. If they do not, and guests suffer injuries as a result, the landowner can be liable for the injuries caused by their negligence. Legal professionals often refer to these cases as “slip and fall” cases.

A common sip and fall case involves an injury victim who slips on produce in a grocery store. If the grocery store (or its employees) were negligent in failing to clear the squished produce, the company can be liable for compensating the shopper for their injuries.

Accident victims can file premises liability claims against private homeowners, store owners, landlords, and other property owners. There are different standards of negligence for different types of property owners. Injury victims should be sure to consult with a Florida personal injury lawyer about their specific circumstances.

An experienced lawyer will work to find all potential defendants before any statutes of limitation bar your claim.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is more common than you might think. According to CNBC, medical errors are the third-highest cause of death in the United States. A Johns Hopkins study found that about 250,000 Americans die every year due to medical malpractice. Other estimates place it as high as 440,000 deaths every year. Only cancer and heart disease kill more Americans every year.

This is why injury victims must hold doctors, staff, and medical facilities accountable for the injuries they cause. Financial consequences encourage all medical providers to be more careful in the future.

Here in Florida, the statute of limitations is shorter for a medical malpractice claim than for claims involving other types of negligence. Victims must file their claims within two years of learning of the medical malpractice. This time limit may be longer than two years by using the date the victim “should have’’ discovered the medical malpractice.

For example, if a medical team leaves a sponge inside a patient after surgery, they are unlikely to know about the problem on the day of surgery. It can take months for the patient to show symptoms and have an x-ray to diagnose the problem. In this case, the statute of limitations might not start to run until the patient discovered the sponge on an x-ray.

There are also special rules that apply when the victim is a child or when a defendant actively works to hide the problem from the patient. Victims of medical malpractice should be sure to find a personal injury lawyer with experience in this specific area. There are many different procedural rules and legal issues that come up in medical malpractice cases, and a lawyer who only has experience in other areas of personal injury may not be qualified to handle your case.

Wrongful Death

According to the CDC, there were 173,040 deaths related to unintentional injuries in the U.S. in a recent year. Under state law, surviving family members can often hold negligent parties accountable for these preventable deaths. Though the process of litigating a wrongful death case can be lengthy and emotionally taxing, it is a critical step toward preventing unnecessary deaths across the country.

Financial accountability encourages others to act more safely in the future. It can also lead to laws that encourage safety in society. Driver negligence, workplace safety regulations, and consumer protection laws are all important safety measures that are a direct result of preventable injuries.

In Florida, plaintiffs must bring wrongful death claims within two years. The statute of limitations is usually clear in these cases because there is a specific date of death to use to calculate the deadline. Still, some wrongful death cases can be complicated. Imagine that a car accident victim was in a coma for months before they died. While in a coma, the victim can have a personal injury claim against the driver who caused the accident, and this statute of limitations will start from the date of the accident.

In fact, the statute may not start to run until the time the victim emerged from a coma, as they will be incapable of bringing a claim during their incapacity. But at the time of the victim’s death, surviving family members (or legal heirs) will have a wrongful death claim, and the statute of limitations will start from the date of the victim’s death. Family members must be sure to consult with a personal injury lawyer about all potential claims they have – and which statutes of limitation apply to each legal claim.

What Happens After a Statute of Limitation Expires

Once the statute of limitations passes, the injury victim no longer has a claim that a court can adjudicate. A court will likely dismiss any claim against negligent parties immediately. And because there is no threat of litigation, insurance companies will no longer make any settlement offers, as they only make settlement offers to avoid court altogether.

At this point, the victim has no access to any compensation whatsoever for any injuries or losses. Depending on the severity of the claim, this can be thousands – or even millions – of dollars lost. Do not run the risk of even coming close to this immovable deadline. Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident or suspected medical malpractice.

Why Statutes of Limitation Exist

The statute of limitations can seem like a harsh rule. After all, if someone did something wrong, shouldn’t they be held accountable for it? The goal of statutes of limitation is to encourage all plaintiffs to file their claims on time. Delay in bringing a lawsuit can clog court dockets unnecessarily.

Delays can also make it more difficult to prove a case at all. After all, memories fade over time, and witnesses are not likely to remember events as well as they did immediately after the accident. Other physical evidence (such as photographs, recordings, and security footage) are also more likely to be lost as time passes. Consult with a lawyer as soon as you can. In some special circumstances, it is possible to stop the clock on the statute of limitations.

When the Clock Starts Ticking on the Statute of Limitations

In personal injury cases, the clock starts ticking on a statute of limitations as soon as the injury occurs. In some cases, the victim cannot reasonably discover their injury at the time it occurs. (For example, if a surgeon sets a bone improperly, and the victim does not discover the error until weeks pass and the bone does not heal correctly.)

In this case, the clock starts ticking when the victim “should have” discovered the injury. This rule is helpful in medical malpractice cases. In most car accident cases, however, the statute of limitations starts when the accident occurs. Even then, some exceptions may apply.

Circumstances That Can Stop the Clock

The Florida Statutes also recognize circumstances that should “stop the clock” on your deadline to sue. This is known as the tolling of the statute of limitations.

These circumstances include:

  • The defendant is absent from the state
  • The defendant has used a false name or hidden their whereabouts to avoid facing a lawsuit
  • There is pending arbitration on the matter to settle it out of court
  • The plaintiff has been declared mentally incompetent and cannot bring a lawsuit
  • The plaintiff is a minor child

In some of these cases, there are still limits on how long the statute of limitations may be extended. For example, if the plaintiff is legally incapacitated or a minor, this can “stop the clock” for a time, but the victim must still file within seven years of the date of the accident.

If the defendant took steps to actively conceal their wrongdoing, this can also toll the statute of limitations. The statutes do not provide a hard deadline in these circumstances, so it is important to consult with an injury lawyer about your legal rights as soon as you discover that the defendant committed fraud or concealed their wrongdoing.

There are also special exceptions for medical malpractice claims. If the plaintiff is a minor child, the statute of limitations can be extended for up to four years from the date of the injury, so long as their parents or guardian file the on or before the child’s eighth birthday.

If the defendant used “fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact” to prevent the victim from discovering the medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is extended to two years from the time the victim discovered the medical malpractice. Even then, the victim must bring the claim within seven years of the date the medical malpractice occurred. (If the victim is a minor, his or her parents can bring the claim on or before the child’s eighth birthday.)

As you can see, many circumstances can stop the clock on the statute of limitations, and these exceptions can be incredibly convoluted. This is why it is so important to seek legal advice as soon as you suspect that you might have a legal claim. Even if you are not sure, an attorney can investigate your case and advise you on the statute of limitations that may apply to our case.

Notice of Claim Requirements

In addition to statutes of limitation, there may be other deadlines that apply to your personal injury claim. The Florida Statutes create a notice of claim requirement for any claims against a state agency. This means that your lawyer must advise the agency of your claim, in writing, within three years of the accident. (Wrongful death claims require notice within two years.)

If you do not notify the state of your claim within that time limit, you might be unable to sue for your losses. The notice of claim requirement does not apply in all personal injury cases. The state is not a defendant in many personal injury lawsuits, but you must be aware of this requirement if it is. Your personal injury lawyer will review your case, determine if notice of claim is required, and send out the appropriate notice to the state within the statutory deadline.

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