What Florida’s Statute of Limitations Means For Your Personal Injury Case
If you are injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you are legally entitled to seek compensation in court, but Florida’s statute of limitations means you need to do so quickly.
A serious vehicle accident could leave you with severe or chronic injuries that require hospital stays, surgeries, medications, crutches, and more, which can all be costly medical expenses. You may have to take time off work and forego wages. All of these tangible costs may not even outweigh the intangible cost of the enjoyment of daily life you’ve missed out on due to your pain and suffering. Even if you are partially at fault for the accident, you may still be able to recover damages.
However, Florida law specifies that victims who want to file a personal injury claim or suit need to act within a certain time frame, or their claim is rendered invalid. Every state has this rule – it is known as a statute of limitations, and it is a law that establishes the maximum time that plaintiffs have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense. This time frame varies by state and the severity of the offense, however. In civil cases, which include accident and personal injury cases,the statute of limitations in Florida is four years.
Here is what that means for your case: if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident where the other driver was negligent (not paying attention, speeding, etc.), you only have four years exactly from the date that the accident occured to file a personal injury suit against the other driver.
If you wait four years and one day to file a personal injury suit, you are almost certainly not going to get financial restitution for your case. Your case not only will be dismissed in court, but you will also lose all negotiating power with the defendant or their insurance company (you cannot say “I’ll see you in court” because you cannot go to court anymore).
There are exceptions to the statute of limitations, but they are very rare. If you are legally deemed incapacitated, either by a temporary or permanent mental illness, at the time of the accident, you have seven years to file a suit. If the other driver (the defendant) left Florida after the accident but before the suit was filed, the statute of limitations may be extended depending on how long the defendant was out of state. If the defendant tried to change their name or otherwise conceal their identity due to prevent a lawsuit, the statute of limitations may be extended.
Otherwise, though, the four year deadline is firm.
Note that if you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit for a family member who was killed in a motor vehicle accident, the statute of limitations is only two years. If you are making a lawsuit for bodily harm against the government (if you believe that they are responsible for your injuries), then the statute of limitations is only three years.
This is important to know about! If you’re involved in an accident, it is important to have a medical examination and contact a lawyer right away.
Let’s look at one hypothetical scenario that proves this; say that you are involved in a car accident where someone was texting and driving and t-boned you. Because of the adrenaline, you do not feel all of your injuries, but the impact damaged your spine pretty severely. You are not in that much pain, so you go home, and the next day, you take a bad fall down your stairs. From then on, you have incredible, chronic back pain. You think it is from the fall you took, when actually it was due to the car accident. If five years down the road, you are informed that your spinal injury was a result of the crash, and want to sue the other driver for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills you have accumulated because of this injury, you cannot anymore, because the statute of limitations is up.
Another scenario could be if you made a claim with the other person’s insurance company fairly soon after the accident, but they have been processing it for years and then finally deny it. If the statute of limitations is up, you may no longer be able to file a suit. Or if they deny it immediately and you do not think there is anything you can do; after four years, you learn from someone else that you could have received compensation if you hired the right attorney, but the statute of limitations is already expired.
Now obviously, this is a hypothetical, but many people do not feel all of their injuries right away and do not take legal action immediately either because they think their injuries will disappear, because they do not know what a settlement could mean for them financially, or because they do not know that they only have four years (if they live in Florida) to make a decision regarding litigation.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Florida, call The Florida Law Group. We can help you understand more about how the Florida statute of limitations applies to your specific case, as well as all of your legal options! We will fight for maximum compensation (more than the insurance companies are saying that you deserve). Our lead trial attorney, Chris Limberopoulos, is a board certified Civil Trial Specialist, a rare distinction among lawyers! Our ability to earn million-dollar verdicts for our clients has earned us a spot in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum®. Call us today if you believe you have a case and we will give you a free case evaluation!