The state of Florida allows everyone who has been injured in an accident to file a lawsuit against any person or entity that is at fault for that accident. However, this must be done within the stipulated time, after which the civil court may not admit your case. A lot of people take more time to recover and collect evidence before filing a lawsuit against a negligent person or entity. In the end, they do not get to recover their damages.
At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we help people who want to recover damages after an accident to understand more about the statute of limitations and what they must do to beat the set deadline. Therefore, if you are thinking about filing a lawsuit against an at-fault party for compensation, we can guide you through the process. Through our help, we ensure that all the necessary documents are filed in a civil court on time.
Legal Definition of Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time that an injured party has to initiate a legal process against an offender for alleged wrongdoing. The length of time given for every case enables an accident victim to file a legal claim against the person they suspect to have caused the accident in which they suffered injuries and other losses. The majority of legal matters that have a statute of limitations are civil cases.
Every state has its time limits within which civil lawsuits must be filed against the responsible party. In Florida, for instance, the time a plaintiff has to file a legal suit against their offenders mainly depends on the type of accident they were involved in and whether or not they are filing a case against a government agency. The statute of limitations in Florida provides a time that ranges from one to ten years, depending on the procedure and nature of the claim. The clock starts to tick from the date of the accident or from the day the plaintiff discovered the wrong done to them.
In Florida, the law regarding the statute of limitations is under Section 95.11 of Florida Statutes. The legislature usually passes the law regarding the statute of limitations. It applies to both individuals and businesses that want to file a claim against another entity in court. This time-frame ensures that all lawsuits are filed in courts within a reasonable period. It gives those involved in the lawsuits time to regain their peace of mind after the years have passed. It also prevents the court from determining old cases whose records have long been lost and memories long forgotten.
Florida Statute of Limitations for Different Types of Personal Injuries
In the state of Florida, no law requires at-fault parties in personal injury cases to fairly or automatically compensate people who suffer injuries in accidents they have instigated. Victims have to file claims against those parties that are responsible for their damages, which have to be done within the given time limit. It is, therefore, important for accident victims to take time to understand the statute of limitations in their case. Note that not all legal matters in Florida have a Statute of Limitations. The determination of time-limits for cases that have limitations is by the following:
- The type of case
- When the time to file the claim starts
- The alleged defendant, whether it is a public body or a private party
- Other factors that could extend the time-limit for the plaintiff. They only affect limited cases
The most common statute of limitations for Florida civil cases include:
Four Years for Personal Injury Cases
A personal injury case in Florida occurs when a person causes an accident in which another person suffers injuries and other losses. Under the state’s statute of limitations, the injured has up to four years from the day of the accident to file a claim against the responsible party. Failing to file a complaint by this time will cause the court to refuse to hear your case, which means that the injured loses their chance of getting compensated for their injuries.
However, there is some hope for a person who had not discovered that they suffered an injury. The court is allowed by the law to extend the time-limit for such a person.
Note that if you are filing a legal suit against a government entity, the time limit will be shorter than four years.
Two Years for Medical Malpractice Cases
A medical malpractice case will happen when a doctor, hospital, and any other healthcare facility/professional causes an injury to a patient through negligent acts of commission or omission. Negligence, in this case, could be the result of errors in treatment, diagnosis, health management, and aftercare. The state of Florida allows injured patients two years to bring a legal claim against the negligent party. The two-year period will start from the time the patient or their family member knew or should have known that the injury had occurred
The state of Florida has another strict rule called the Statute of Repose, which does not allow any person to sue for medical malpractice four years after the date of the actual incident. The law says that pursuing compensation for medical malpractice after four years is only allowed if there was concealment, fraud, or misrepresentation. What this means is that even though the patient or his/her family members were not aware of the malpractice, their claim may not be admitted in court if it is brought four years after the incident.
The plaintiff will have to prove misrepresentation, concealment, or fraud by the medical professional for the four-year statute of repose to be extended to seven years. Proving this is never an easy thing and could deny the plaintiff a chance to recover damages caused by another person’s negligence.
Two Years for Assault/battery Cases
Other than assault/battery being criminal conduct tried and determined in a criminal court, assault/battery can also lead to a personal injury lawsuit in Florida. It depends on the party that initiates the case. A typical definition of assault is an intentional act meant to place another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of harmful contact. The contact, in this case, must have been made in a manner to suggest that the offender is capable of inflicting pain or injury to the victim. Assault can still happen even if there was no contact established between the victim and the offender.
If the case is taken to a civil court, the defendant will have two years from the date the incident occurred to gather evidence and file all the necessary documents in court.
Two, Four or Five Years for Product Liability Cases
Product liability lawsuits occur when one or more people are affected by a defective product. They can be complicated, messy, and very long because the affected people have to research far and wide to figure out what happened and the manufacturer who produced the faulty product that caused those injuries. In addition to that, these cases take a lot of resources. To analyze what happened in a defective product lawsuit, courts use two theories: a theory of negligence or that of product liability.
Typically, the statute of limitations for defective products or product liability claims in the state is four years, which starts to count from the date of the injury. In case of wrongful death, the statute is shortened to two years. If, however, the damage suffered a delayed onset, the plaintiff will get additional time to file their claim. It will also happen if the manufacturer had offered a more extended warranty.
Product liability cases in Florida have a Statute of Repose, too, which is usually 12 years. In this case, the state goes by the Discovery Rule.
Two Years for Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death occurs when a person loses their life as a result of another person’s negligence or wrongful conduct. After losing their life, the family or estate of the deceased person is allowed by Florida law to pursue compensation from the person or entity responsible for causing the death of their loved one. The statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims in the state is two years from the date the victim lost his/her life.
Two Years for Workers’ Compensation Cases
Workers’ compensation is a benefit paid to an employee who has suffered injuries in the course of their employment. These benefits are usually paid to relinquish the employee’s rights to sue their employer for the negligence that caused the injuries. In the state of Florida, workers’ compensation claims are usually barred forever unless the injured employee files for compensation at least two years from the date of their injury. Note that two years from the date of damage starts to count once the injured worker becomes aware that they have suffered an injury in their workplace.
There are several exceptions to this two-year deadline, some of which are:
- If the injured worker was mentally incapacitated or a minor
- If the employee sues the employer claiming that the two did not have any employer/employee relationship. In this case, the two-year deadline will begin once the court has established its actual connection
- If the employee or his/her insurance provider lied or misled the injured worker.
- If the employer failed to inform the injured employee of his/her rights
It is essential to understand the statute of limitations that apply to your particular case to avoid issues when the time to file your claim comes. The best thing to do is always to file your lawsuit immediately you get injured. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney after an accident will give him/her time to investigate the accident and prepare all the necessary documents on time. This way, you will not lose your chance of getting the compensation you deserve.
When Does the Clock Start Ticking?
The strict time limits provided by the statute of limitations law mean that the plaintiff and his/her attorney need to start working immediately after an injury happens. However, as has been mentioned above, the time when the clock starts to tick for civil cases differ significantly, depending on the facts of the case. Most of the time-limits mentioned above relate mainly to personal injury cases, but the critical thing to note here is that there are exemptions in most cases. That is why there is always a disparity in when the statute of limitations starts for individual circumstances.
Date of the Injury
The date of the injury is the most common start date for most statutes of limitations. It applies mainly to the most straightforward personal injury cases. If a person has suffered injuries in a car accident, for instance, and it is evident that the driver was at fault, the plaintiff can get started on his/her case as soon as the accident happens. The dates of the injury either the day the plaintiff was injured in an accident or another person's property.
Date of Discovery
The date of discovery is also used as the start date for other statutes of limitations. It will apply in cases where a person does not realize that they have been injured immediately the injury happens. A person may start experiencing pain long after an accident, without realizing that the cause of the pain is an injury they suffered in the accident. It is possible in some injuries, such as those that result from medical malpractice.
If a condition was not diagnosed on time or was misdiagnosed, for instance, the effects of that malpractice could be experienced so many months later. In such cases, the time limit will begin as soon as the plaintiff reasonably discovers the injury and the connection between the damage they have suffered and an event that happened sometime before.
There are instances when the court tolls the statute of limitations temporarily. For example, this is in situations where there are conditions that are beyond the plaintiff’s control. If these situations might prevent the case from going forward, then the time-limit could be tolled for some time. It will, as a result, toll the case. It is mainly done for the best interest of justice, for instance, if the injured person is suffering from an emotional or mental breakdown. The case could also be suspended temporarily if the defendant flees the state, or there is war in the state.
Other Factors that Could Shorten/Extend Florida Statute of Limitations
Section 95.11 of Florida Statutes provides the statute of limitations for all personal injury cases in the case. However, as mentioned above, several circumstances could either shorten or extend the given deadline for presenting a claim in a civil court. Examples of these circumstances are:
The Kind of Personal Injury Suit you are Submitting
As noted above, all civil injury claims have different deadline son when a plaintiff can file a lawsuit in court for compensation. Of all the personal injury cases, there are different deadlines for wrongful death, medical malpractice, and product liability cases. Other than the time-limits that have been provided in law, there are exemptions in each case the injured person must be well aware of. Again, working closely with an experienced personal injury attorney will help you meet the deadlines with no issues.
The Injured Person’s Age
The state of Florida treats personal injury cases involving minors as exceptional cases. It means that the statute of limitations for cases involving children will be different from ordinary circumstances. The state takes 18 years as the legal age, and anyone below that age is considered a minor. Personal injury cases involving children will enjoy more time on top of the standard time-limit provided to file a legal claim for a particular case. Section 95.051 of Florida laws, for instance, provides that minors have up to seven years after the injury date to file a legal claim against an at-fault party in an accident they got injured. If the typical statute of limitations is longer than seven years, then the minor will be given up to the end of the given time-limit to file their case in a civil court.
The Type of Injury the Victim has Suffered
In cases where injuries manifest later after an accident has occurred, the court allows the victim more time to file a claim against the at-fault party. Sometimes a person may be injured and not know right away that they have been injured. In cases such as prolonged exposure to dangerous chemicals such as asbestos, it might take a long time for the injured victim to know of their injuries and the cause of those injuries. In such cases, the deadline will be extended to allow the victim time to investigate their injuries and file a lawsuit in court.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases differs from one situation to the other. Generally, people who have been injured by a medical professional have a time-limit of 2 years to present a lawsuit in court. However, there are instances when this time-limit is tolled, especially if the injured didn’t realize that they had been injured until sometime later. If, for example, after an operation, a surgeon leaves a foreign item in their patient's body. This could be discovered months later after the complications start to manifest. In that case, the victim will still have two years to bring a lawsuit against the negligent surgeon, which starts from the day they discovered their injury.
Children who have been injured by a medical professional, their time-limit will be four years from the day of injury or the time the child turns eight years old.
Claims against a Government
There could be several instances in which victims of personal injuries have valid claims against a government entity or the government. This could happen if, for example, a person was injured in an accident in which a public bus, poorly maintained roads, or a poorly-maintained municipal property was at fault. In that case, the victim will be filing a claim for the negligent government, public entity, or municipal to compensate them for their injuries. It is important to note that any personal injury lawsuit against a public body has to adhere to specific procedures and rules, which are not present in standard personal injury cases. Again, suits against the government have shorter time-limits. In that case, the plaintiff needs to act fast enough to ensure that they are filing their claim in court on time.
Sexual Abuse Cases
So many factors have contributed to the extension of time in which victims of sexual abuse have to file legal claims against their offenders. It also helps create awareness about sexual abuse and its effect on victims, mainly minor victims. Sexual violence has latent and hidden injuries, too, which could take the victim a long time to bring out. In the state of Florida, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims can be extended to allow the victim time to gain enough courage to file a claim against their abuser.
The time limit could be seven years, and in case the victim is a minor, the law might allow them to file a lawsuit against their abuser once they turn eighteen years. The law also allows victims of sexual abuse to file their claims four years after they no longer depend on the defendant or from the day they discovered their injuries. If the victim were a minor below the age of sixteen, they would not have any time-limit to file their case in court.
It is advisable to talk to a personal injury attorney immediately, no matter the nature of your case. It will prevent your case from being barred in court and also provides the legal team enough time to build a lawsuit against the defendant for an effective result.
Find a Clay County Injury Lawyer Near Me
Understanding the statute of limitations for your particular personal injury case is essential as it increases your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries. At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we have a team of experienced attorneys who understand how laws regarding Florida statute of limitations work. Call us at 904-494-8242, we are willing to guide you through the process.