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What Is the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Florida?

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In Florida, you generally have two years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, subject to some exceptions. Failure to file in time could lead to the dismissal of your case and keep you from getting the financial compensation you deserve. 

At Farah & Farah, our Florida medical malpractice attorneys can analyze your case and determine its statute of limitations. We’ll fight for your rights and pursue the financial compensation you deserve. Call us today at (877) 245-6707 for your free consultation to learn more about the specific deadlines that apply in your case.

Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Florida

A statute of limitations is the time you have to file a lawsuit. It is a strict deadline with few exceptions. If you fail to file your medical malpractice lawsuit by the applicable statute of limitations, the trial court will almost certainly dismiss it. This may mean that, even if your case would otherwise be successful, you will not win the compensation you may be entitled to. It is critical to know when your statute of limitations period ends and file before that deadline passes. 

Florida Statutes Section 95.11(4)(c) usually requires claimants to file their action within two years after the injury or death from malpractice occurred.  

While two years may seem like ample time, medical malpractice cases can be more complex and time-consuming than they seem. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer in Florida as soon as possible after you the medical negligence occurred to preserve your right to compensation.

Exceptions to Florida’s Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

A few exceptions to Florida’s two-year medical malpractice statute of limitations may apply to your case.

The Discovery Rule in Florida Medical Malpractice Cases

One of the most common exceptions is the discovery rule, which applies when the injury is not immediately discoverable. In such cases, the period doesn’t begin to run until the claimant discovers or reasonably should have discovered the injury.

However, the period cannot be extended more than four years from when the malpractice occurred. This four-year period is called the statute of repose, which imposes a hard deadline for filing suits.

For example, suppose a surgeon causes harm during a patient’s back surgery, but the injury does not cause apparent problems for three years. The patient may still be able to file because the claim will be within the four-year period under the statute of repose.

Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Fraud or Concealment

Cases involving fraud or concealment may also extend the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Florida. Concealment occurs when a doctor, staff, or the hospital intentionally hides evidence of medical malpractice to avoid a lawsuit. Fraud usually occurs when there is an intentional misrepresentation or a lie.  

Fraud can also occur by omission when the negligent party fails to answer questions or provide documents for dishonest purposes. For fraud or concealment cases, the patient has an additional two years from the date they discovered the fraud or concealment to file their claim. However, even in these cases, the medical malpractice claim must be filed within seven years of the date the injury occurred.

Florida Deadlines for Medical Malpractice Claims Involving Children 

Medical malpractice claims for minors are handled somewhat differently and may further extend the statute of limitations. This is critically important in birth injury cases when medical negligence causes developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, and other adverse effects on children.  

Florida law extends the statute of repose to protect children. Typically set at four years from the date of the incident, the statute states that this four-year statute of repose does not apply before a child’s eighth birthday.

While the statute of repose is extended for young children to help handle cases of delayed discovery, it does not apply when their parents knew or should have known about the injury. Parents who know or believe their child was hurt by medical malpractice could still be subject to the two-year statute of limitations in Florida for medical malpractice claims. 

If you believe medical malpractice has harmed your child, discuss your case with a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer in Florida. The statute of limitations can be difficult to determine for cases involving young children. At Farah & Farah, we know how to analyze your claim to determine when you should file your case.

Tolling and Other Time Limits in Florida Medical Malpractice Claims

Florida has passed several laws to address concerns about frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits. The state has also enacted several laws to protect valid claims and help parties determine which cases have merit and which do not. Therefore, Florida law requires a reasonable investigation into the alleged medical malpractice.

Tolling for a Pre-Suit Investigation

Under Florida Statutes Section 766.104(2), you and your attorney can file a petition for extension with the clerk of court for your case. This creates an automatic 90-day extension of your statute of limitations period. During this time, your attorney investigates the facts of your case and determines whether it has merit. This measure aims to ensure that only qualified cases head toward litigation.

Notice of Intent for Pre-Suit Investigation by the Defendant

Once the pre-suit investigation begins, your lawyer must give each prospective defendant notice of intent to initiate litigation before you can file your case in court. Under Florida Statutes Section 766.106(4), once this notice of intent is served, you may not file the lawsuit for 90 days.

The separate pre-suit investigation period allows both parties and the defendant’s insurer to investigate what happened and whether there is any liability. The parties can also negotiate an even longer tolling period to permit further investigation under the statute and Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.650. During these tolling periods, the statute of limitations clock temporarily stops running.

During and After the Pre-Suit Investigation

During this time, the parties work together in the discovery process to exchange information, documents, and testimony. The court may dismiss a party’s claims or defenses if they fail to cooperate during this process. If the defendant believes there are no reasonable grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, the defendant must file a written and verified medical opinion supporting the rejection of the claim. This rejection must be based on a reasonable investigation.

Once the defendant rejects the claim, you have 60 days from receipt of the rejection letter or whatever time is left under the statute of limitations, whichever is longer, to file a lawsuit.

Contact Our Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyers for a Free Consultation Today

Medical malpractice means dealing with physical injuries, pain, emotional trauma, and financial hardship. At Farah & Farah, our experienced medical malpractice lawyers can help. We have over 40 years of experience handling medical malpractice claims for our clients.

Contact us online or call (877) 245-6707 for your free initial case review. We can explain the specific deadlines that apply to your medical negligence case and help ensure you don’t lose your opportunity to get the compensation you deserve.

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