How Does the Statute of Limitations Impact Personal Injury Claims in Florida?
Accidents remain one of the top causes of death and disability in the US, leading to devastating losses for victims and their families. Car, truck, and motorcycle crashes are common, but individuals can also suffer harm due to slip and falls, hazards on property, defective products, medical malpractice, and many other mishaps. Fortunately, Florida law provides legal remedies if you or a loved one was hurt in an accident that was caused by someone else. You may qualify to recover compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial losses.
There are many legal requirements you must meet when seeking monetary damages, and one important rule involves timing. Like all other US states, Florida has a statute of limitations that imposes deadlines on personal injury claims. If you allow the clock to expire, there are serious consequences for your rights. To further complicate matters, there are different statutes of limitations that apply to specific situations.
Because you could miss out on your opportunities by delaying legal action, it is critical to retain experienced counsel. A Florida personal injury attorney will assist with the process, helping to leverage timing and other tactics to your advantage. You can also read on for additional details on how the statute of limitations impacts personal injury claims in Florida.
Florida’s Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
There are time restraints on every type of case, including both criminal and civil cases. Personal injury claims are a type of civil case, and they are usually based upon negligence as a theory of liability. For all actions based upon negligence, the Florida statute of limitations sets a deadline of two years. The clock starts to run on the date that the incident occurred, and you must file a lawsuit in court before this date.
The legal effect of allowing the statute of limitations to expire is devastating to your case. You will be forever barred from recovering any compensation for your losses. It is possible to file a lawsuit, but the defendant would have a full and complete defense that would lead the court to dismiss it.
Remember that the two-year statute of limitations in Florida is not paused while you are engaged in settlement discussions to negotiate an out-of-court agreement. The only exceptions that would affect the statute of limitations are cases involving minors, some medical malpractice claims, and matters where the defendant conceals themselves.
Fatal Accidents and the Statute of Limitations in Florida
When an accident is so severe that it causes death to a victim, there is a legal remedy available for survivors. A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury case, and many of the same concepts are similar to these claims. The statute of limitations is the same as for injury-causing accidents, so you have two years to file a lawsuit. Instead of measuring the deadline from the date of the accident, the clock begins to run on the date that the victim perished because of the fatal injuries.
Statute of Limitations and Minors
There is an exception to the two-year statute of limitations when the victim of a personal injury claim is a minor. The reason for a different rule is that a person under 18 years old is under a legal disability for purposes of filing lawsuits. Typically, the parent or guardian of the child would take legal action and file a lawsuit on the victim’s behalf, in which case the two-year deadline applies. However, the statute of limitations is tolled, or paused for up to seven years, if any of the following factors apply:
- The child victim has no parent or guardian.
- The child’s interests are adverse to those of the parent or guardian.
- The parent or guardian is incapacitated or cannot sue.
Medical Malpractice and the Statute of Limitations in Florida
Cases involving medical malpractice are also subject to a set of particular rules regarding the statute of limitations, though the same basic two-year deadline applies. In a typical case, the statute starts to run on the date that the incident of medical negligence occurred. However, the special rules for medical malpractice cases could affect this deadline.
The “Discovery” Rule: Medical negligence cases are unique in that the error could occur, but the injuries and other effects are not evidence until some time later. In these situations, the statute of limitations may be extended. You have two years from the date that you discovered, or through reasonable diligence should have discovered, that there was an incident of medical malpractice. This discovery rule often arises in cases of surgical errors and misdiagnosis. In total, the discovery rule allows up to four years from the date of the malpractice incident.
Medical Malpractice and Minors: The statute of limitations is also extended when the victim of medical negligence is a minor. Even with the discovery rule extended to four years, a minor has until their eighth birthday to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice. The statute of limitations is often an issue for birth injury cases, such as those involving failure to order a C-section or improper use of forceps.
Note Recent Changes to the Deadline
Because there was a recent modification to the law, you should be aware of changes to Florida’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims. In March 2023, the deadline for accident cases was reduced from four years to two years under the current law. This adjustment to the timing is important because you may have heard that you have four years or if you know someone who has an older personal injury case that fell under the four-year statute of limitations. Do not mistake the older law for the new, two-year statute of limitations, or your case will be barred.
Quick Action is Critical for Personal Injury Claims in Florida
The statute of limitations for personal injury cases is clearly an important rule to remember, but there is another critical point to consider with respect to your interests. You have no reason to wait when compensation is at stake. Your losses are significant, so delays only prolong the financial hardships you may be experiencing. A look at the legal process should convince you that it is a priority to move forward:
- Your first step is filing a claim under the liability insurance policy of the negligent motorist, property owner, or business owner that caused the accident. You will submit all evidence regarding your injuries, fault by the policyholder, and your demand for a certain amount of compensation.
- The insurance company will conduct its own investigation, and you may receive a counteroffer to settle. You may negotiate a fair settlement with the insurer without going to court.
- If the insurance company does not pay a reasonable amount, you must file a lawsuit before the two-year deadline expires for Florida’s statute of limitations.
If you are able to negotiate a settlement, it may be possible to receive payment for the agreed compensation in just a few weeks. Going through litigation will take longer, usually several months or more than a year to the trial date. Given these timeframes, there is no reason to wait until you just approach the statute of limitations. You should talk to a Florida personal injury attorney right away about getting started with the legal process.
Other Legal Requirements
The statute of limitations is important, but there are other criteria you must meet to prevail in a personal injury case. You need to prove the facts of a case based upon negligence, and the essential elements are:
- You must show that the at-fault party had a duty to exercise reasonable care so as to avoid causing a risk of harm to others.
- You need evidence proving that the person or entity breached this duty of care through unsafe actions.
- You must establish that there is a causal link between the breach of duty and the accident in which you were injured, such that you would not have been hurt but for the breach.
- You need to show that you suffered losses because of being injured.
If your personal injury matter is a wrongful death case from a fatal accident, there is another requirement to keep in mind. You must have legal standing, which means having the authority to sue. In Florida, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate has the power to bring a lawsuit. This person sues on behalf of the decedent’s surviving spouse, children, and other family.
How Compensation Works for Personal Injury Cases in Florida
In a successful personal injury claim, compensation for the victim is intended to make it as if the accident never happened. There are two categories available when you meet all legal requirements and comply with the statute of limitations:
- Economic Damages: This compensation class involves losses that are measurable by dollar value. Medical costs, lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses are examples.
- Noneconomic Damages: Some losses are personal and subjective, so they affect the victim’s quality of life. Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and scarring and disfigurement are types of noneconomic damages.
Discuss Strategy with a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer
Even though you may be entitled to compensation as an accident victim, you must always remember how the statute of limitations impacts personal injury claims in Florida. You risk recovering nothing if you miss the deadline, but there are many other reasons you want to pursue legal action as soon as possible. To learn more about timing and strategy, please get in touch with Rosen Injury Law, P.A. We can set up a consultation with a Florida personal injury attorney who will describe how the process works.
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