Individuals who are injured in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence can recover compensation in Florida by filing a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. While injured parties are entitled to sue those who negligently harm them, this right does not last forever. This is because Florida has a statute of limitations which limits the timeframe within which personal injury claims resulting from car accidents can be filed. This article briefly explains what a statute of limitations is, outlines Florida’s statutes of limitation that commonly apply to car accident injuries, and notes some important exceptions to these limitations.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a law that affords plaintiffs (i.e. the person suing) a limited timeframe within which they are allowed to file their lawsuit. Many civil lawsuits are governed by a statute of limitations, most of which are state specific. For example, one state may grant wronged individuals one year to file their claims, but a neighboring state may have a statute of limitations that affords plaintiffs with the same type of claim two years within which their claims can be filed. It is incredibly important to know how long you have to file a claim under your state’s applicable statute of limitations as failing to file on time will likely result in your claim being barred.
States generally enact statutes of limitation in order to encourage legal conflicts to be resolved in a timely manner and to help discourage fraudulent claims. However, in the interest of fairness it only makes sense that some types of civil plaintiffs should have more time to file their claims than others. Therefore, Florida has established several different statutes of limitation that respectively govern a variety of different types of cases including personal injury, libel/slander, injury to personal property, professional malpractice, trespass, and workers’ compensation lawsuits.
Florida’s Car Accident Statutes of Limitation
- Personal Injury Lawsuits: Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(a) applies to plaintiffs suing in Florida on a civil action founded in negligence (which includes nearly all plaintiffs with a personal injury case based on a car accident), and holds that plaintiffs have four years from the date of the accident within which they are permitted to file their claim. Failing to meet this deadline will result in the court refusing to hear your case, unless you are able to successfully argue that your claim falls under an exception to this statute of limitations. Some valid exceptions to Florida’s personal injury statute of limitations are outlined below.
- Wrongful Death Lawsuits: If an individual is injured in a car accident in Florida and passes away from his or her injuries, their family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party who caused the accident. However, surviving family members must act quickly because Florida’s statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits (Florida Statutes section 95.11(4)(d)) generally requires claims to be filed within two years of the deceased family member’s passing.
- Injury Claims Filed Against the Government: Car accident victims in Florida who wish to file a personal injury claim against a city, county, or state government should be aware that they will generally only be granted three years from the date of their accident within which to file their claims.
Exceptions to Florida’s Four Year Statute of Limitations For Personal Injury Lawsuits
It should be noted that under some limited circumstances a personal injury plaintiff’s statute of limitations clock can be delayed or tolled. It is important to know that these exceptions exist, but they should not be relied on before first consulting with a local personal injury attorney because determining whether or not a particular claim falls under a valid SOL exception can be extremely tricky.
In Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff’s statute of limitations clock starts to run when their “cause of action arises.” In a personal injury case resulting from a car accident, the cause of action arises when the injury that is the basis of the lawsuit occurs (i.e. during the car accident). However, the “discovery rule” enables a plaintiff’s statute of limitations clock to be tolled (or paused) until the injured individual should have reasonably discovered their injury. Florida employes the discovery rule because it would be unfair to bar an injured plaintiff’s claim without giving them sufficient time to discover that they are injured and to get their claim filed.
Additionally, the court may also toll an injured plaintiff’s statute of limitations clock in the interest of justice if fairness requires the plaintiff to have additional time within which to file their claim. For instance, a court may permit an SOL to be tolled if the plaintiff was less than 18 years old when their cause of action arose and no one filed a suit on the minor’s behalf. Also, under some circumstances the court may toll a mentally incompetent individual’s statute of limitations clock until the plaintiff regains their mental competency, or until someone else has filed a lawsuit on their behalf.
Determining when a particular plaintiff’s statute of limitations begins and ends can be extremely complicated as there are many factors and exceptions that must be taken into consideration. Therefore, be sure to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer about your claim’s statute of limitations without delay.
Need Legal Advice?
If you were injured in a car accident in Florida be sure to get your claim started as soon as possible in order to best avoid being barring by our state’s statute of limitations. Discuss your case with an experienced Florida car accident attorney as soon as possible to determine when the statute of limitations will expire in your case and whether or not your case falls under one of the exceptions outlined above. Here at Farah & Farah our experienced car accident lawyers are committed to zealously fighting for our clients’ rights and would be happy to fight for you. Contact our Jacksonville office today via our online contact form.