A personal injury lawsuit is a civil claim that allows a victim injured by another person to pursue financial compensation for the damages. Because no laws require those at fault to automatically and fairly compensate for the damages they caused, it is up to the victims to take the initiative and file a claim. Even more, they must file this claim within the time limit outlined by the state's statute of limitations.
The Statute of Limitations Applied to Your Case
The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit claim against the defendant. In other words, it is a deadline with justice in mind and ensures that lawsuits are filed within a reasonable amount of time.
If you do not file a lawsuit within the time allotted in the statute of limitations, your claim will likely not be permitted, and you will forfeit your right to hold the defendant liable for any losses.
Although more serious crimes do not have a statute of limitations, most cases do. Depending on the circumstances, Florida’s statute of limitations on civil injury claims (also known as “torts”) can vary based on the following:
- The basis of the claim
- When the time limit begins
- Whether the alleged at-fault party is a public entity or private
- Specific and limited exceptions that may extend the time limit for the victims
In Florida, the statute of limitations for civil injury cases, typically, go as follows:
- Personal Injury – 4 years
- Assault or Battery – 2 years
- Medical Malpractice – 2 years
- Workers’ Compensation – 2 years
- Product Liability – 2 years
- Wrongful Death – 2 years
However, keep in mind that because these are simplified examples of statutes of limitations in injury-related cases, other factors may influence each case. For example, additional time limits may be applied to different types of civil claims, or one may be required to abide by other laws.
To ensure you understand these limitations and how they will be applied to your case, you should talk to an experienced, qualified attorney as soon as you can.
Understanding When the Statute of Limitations Starts
Depending on the individual facts of the case, the beginning of the statute of limitations varies. Although the time limits above apply to most civil injury cases, it is crucial to understand the various exceptions that can delay the clock.
- Date of Injury – The statute of limitations will typically begin when the accident or injury occurs.
- Discovery – Sometimes, people don't realize the events they were involved in caused them damages or injuries. This action may occur in events involving medical malpractice (e.g., failure to diagnose) or sexual abuse and assault. For these cases, the statute of limitations will begin when the victim reasonably "discovers" the damages of a wrongful or negligent act.
- Tolling – In simple terms, the statute of limitations may be delayed in rare cases involving the victim's mental competence, the defendant fleeing the jurisdiction, or the state is at war.
Other Exceptions to Florida’s Statute of Limitations
While most personal injury cases in Florida must abide by the 4-year statute of limitations beginning the date the accident occurs, other circumstances may extend or shorten the deadline to file.
- The type of case – Claims regarding medical malpractice, product liability, and wrongful death are all subject to different statutes of limitations.
- Age of the victim – In Florida, minors under 18 have seven years after the date of the incident, or until the standard statute of limitations for the case expires (whichever lasts longer) to file a lawsuit.
- The injury – Sometimes, injuries or illnesses do not become apparent until years after an incident or event. This exception is most applied to specific illnesses and occupational diseases. For example, mesothelioma may be caused by exposure to asbestos. So, in these cases, the statute of limitations may change.
- Medical malpractice – In Florida, victims harmed during medical procedures by a medical professional have two years to file a claim. However, if the injury worsens or a new one is discovered as a result of the event, the statute of limitations may be delayed or "tolled." For example, a victim may not realize their surgeon left a foreign object in them during surgery. So, upon discovering the item, they may also receive more time to file beyond the 2-year statute. For children who fall victim to medical malpractice, Florida will allow the parents four years from the date of the injury (or discovery), or until the child turns eight years old.
- Statute of repose – In Florida, this applies to medical malpractice claims. The statute of repose requires that victims file medical malpractice lawsuits no later than four years after the original injury cause (no matter when the injury was discovered). In sporadic and limited cases, the statute of limitations may be extended following the discovery date; however, Florida will not accept any claims filed after 12 years.
- Product liability – In Florida, you will have four years from the injury date to file a claim against defective products. According to the Florida statute of limitations, products have an expected shelf life of 10 years or less. In other words, you may not file a personal injury lawsuit for a defective product beyond the 12th year from the date of purchase.
- Claims against the government – In cases where a person is injured by a public entity (e.g., buses, defective roadways, or lack of maintenance on general properties), personal injury cases will be reviewed with different rules and procedures than usual. Sometimes, these cases may be subject to shorter time limits.
- Sexual abuse – In Florida, survivors filing civil sexual abuse claims are provided with an extended time limit. This means that a victim can either claim seven years after they turn 18 or 4 years after they are no longer dependent on the abuser or from the date of discovering the injuries resulting from the abuse. Also, victims under the age of 16 will not have a time limit whatsoever and may file a lawsuit indefinitely.
With all of these exceptions and legal details, you must speak to a qualified attorney as soon as possible.
If you would like to discuss your injury lawsuit with an experienced attorney, call The Injury Assistance Law Firm at (321) 234-2900 today.
Injury Assistance Law Firm is a personal injury claims lawyer in Orlando. As an Orlando personal injury lawyer, we know what it takes to win a case against an insurance company, and we can provide you with all the help you need to feel confident in your case. If you are interested in learning more, contact us today.