Understanding the Florida Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

personal injury statute of limitations floridaA statute of limitations is a period during which you must file your case.

The Florida statutes of limitations for a typical in personal injury cases vary by type of injury.

For example, the statute of limitations for a car accident or trip and fall is generally four years. However, it varies depending on the type of injury multiple factors. The statute could be as short as two years in some cases or as long as five years in others.

A statute of limitations prevents a potential plaintiff from threatening someone with a lawsuit for an indefinite period. It also ensures more reliable witnesses and a faster resolution to your case. Setting a deadline also resolves the problem of valuable evidence becoming lost over time. 

The personal injury attorneys at Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon recommend filing your case as soon as possible because Florida’s laws are so complex.

You will not receive compensation for your injuries if you don’t file your case before the statute of limitations runs. If you miss the deadline and try to file a lawsuit, the court will likely dismiss your entire case.

The personal injury statutes of limitations in Florida apply even if you are in negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company when the deadline runs. Unless you’ve accepted a settlement offer and signed a release, you will not receive any compensation without proof you filed within the deadline.

Statutes of Limitations for Specific Types of Florida Personal Injury Cases

Florida law provides different statutes of limitation depending on the type of personal injury case. Here are the statutes of limitation for the most common types of personal injury cases in Florida.

Car Accident

The statute of limitations for car accident cases is generally four years. However, it can become complicated.

You have four years from the date of your accident to file your case if the other person was at fault in causing it. If the victim passed away from their injuries, eligible family members have only two years from the date of death to bring a claim.

If the at-fault driver was uninsured, then there is a chance the statute of limitations might extend to five years, but there are other requirements such using your no-fault (PIP) benefits.

Property-damage-only claims have a four-year statute of limitations in Florida.

Additionally, it is important to understand Florida’s 14-day accident law and whether it applies to your case. A Florida personal injury attorney can help you navigate the complex statute of limitations rules surrounding Florida car accident cases.

Motorcycle Accident

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident in Florida, you have four years from the date of the accident to file your case.

Slip and Fall Injury

Similarly, you have four years to file your case if you are the victim of a slip and fall injury.

Product Liability

If you were injured as a result of a defective product and the product did not cause death, you have four years to file your case.

Medical Malpractice

The statute of limitations in Florida for a medical malpractice case is two years. This means that you have only two years from the date of your injury resulting from a medical professional’s negligence to file your case.

This time may be extended up to an additional two years if you did not discover your injury right away. But you still must file your case within four years of the procedure that caused your injury.

This four-year deadline is known as the statute of repose. The clock starts running on this from the date of injury, whether or not you knew or should’ve known malpractice occurred.

There are two possible exceptions to these deadlines.

The first is when there is fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation on the part of the healthcare provider that prevents you from learning of the malpractice. If this is the situation, you will have up to seven years under the statute of repose to file your claim.

Where it gets confusing is that the two-year statute of limitations still applies from when you knew or should’ve known of the malpractice. If that deadline runs, even before the statute of repose has expired, your claim will be barred if you did not file. 

For example, imagine that you learn of the injury and fraud three years after the malpractice occurred. You would then have two more years (for a total of five years) to file your claim.

If you learned of the injury and fraud six years after it occurred, you would have one additional year to file, since the statute of repose would preclude you from filing any more than seven years after the malpractice occurred.

The second exception is when the claim involves a child. The statute of repose is extended and won’t cut off a claim before the child turns eight years old.

However, like the fraud situation, the two-year statute is not extended. That means it will cut off a child’s claim two years after you, as the parent or guardian, knew or should have known about the malpractice.

Wrongful Death

The statute of limitations in Florida for wrongful death cases is two years.

For example, if a motorcycle accident, slip and fall injury, or defective product resulted in death you have only two years to file your case. Note that this statute of limitations begins running from the date of death, not the date of the injury causing death.

How to Calculate the Time for Filing a Florida Personal Injury Case

In Florida, the date of your injury and the date you discovered your injury generally determine when the statute of limitations begins to run.

Date of Injury

Most of the time, the Florida personal injury statute of limitations begins running from the date when the underlying accident or injury occurred.

If this is the case, then you must file your claim within four years from the date of the injury for most personal injury cases.

For medical malpractice, you must file within two years from the date of the injury, and for wrongful death, you must file within two years from the date of death.

Date of Discovery

Sometimes, you may not discover your injury until some time after the accident occurs. In these types of cases, the statute of limitations begins running when you discover or reasonably should have discovered your injury.

Some examples where this could arise include traumatic brain injury or asbestos cases.

However, the discovery rule may be limited by statutes of repose. These put an absolute time limit on filing, even in circumstances where it may be difficult to discover your injury right away.

For example, as discussed above, one Florida statute of repose prevents most victims from filing medical malpractice claims more than four years after the date of injury, even if the injury is discovered later.

Tolling

In some circumstances, Florida law permits you to toll, or pause, the statute of limitations. Tolling applies to situations beyond your control that prevent you from bringing your case.

For example, the statute of limitations may be tolled during a period of time where the defendant has fled the State of Florida or during a period when you are under 18 or mentally incapacitated and do not have a parent or guardian capable of protecting your interests.

However, if the statute is tolled because you are a minor or mentally incapacitated, a Florida statute of repose still prevents you from filing your claim any more than seven years after the date of your injury (with limited exceptions in medical malpractice cases).

How Can a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me?

A Florida personal injury lawyer can help you understand the tricky statute of limitations rules surrounding the different types of personal injury cases.

Retaining an attorney early on in the claims process is highly recommended, no matter what type of personal injury claim you have. Knowing your legal options right from the start is important.

This added time gives your attorney a better opportunity to develop the strongest case possible. Your attorney can preserve all crucial evidence and speak with witnesses while the incident is still fresh in their minds. Talking with witnesses early on can help preserve their testimony in the event your claim goes to trial.

Your attorney will also protect your rights, especially when it comes to interactions with the defendant’s insurance company.

Their insurance company is no on your side and not looking out for you, no matter what they tell you in conversation. In fact, they are hoping to secure a recorded statement from you and get you to say things they can use against you throughout the claims process.

Some insurance companies might try to get you to resolve your case early on in hopes you’ll sign a release of all claims and they can limit their exposure. Or they may drag the claim out and hope you don’t retain an attorney and miss the Florida personal injury statute of limitations altogether.

The personal injury attorneys at Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon will provide individual focus and attention to your case using our resources as part of one of the Gulf Coast’s largest law firms. Call us at 850-444-4878, or contact us online today for your free consultation.