What is the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury?

Although you’re probably aware of the fact that you can pursue compensation after being injured due to the actions of someone else, you may not be aware of the time limits for doing so. If you’re hurt in a personal injury, one crucial aspect to be mindful of is the time limit to file your claim.

After you’re hurt, you only have a limited amount of time to file a claim for recovery formally. That time limit is called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time that you have to bring your case after a personal injury.

Florida’s Statute of Limitations

Florida law 95.11 lists the state’s statute of limitations. In most cases, the limit is four years for a personal injury case. Other types of cases have different time limitations.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Start?

Usually, the clock starts ticking on the statute of limitations on the day you get hurt. You have until the end of the day four years from the date of your injury to bring your claim.

There are some exceptions where you may have more time to bring your claim. There’s never a case where you have less than the maximum time period.

What Happens If You Miss the Deadline?

If you miss the deadline, the other side can get your case dismissed quite easily. You can still file your claim, but as soon as the other side realizes that the statute of limitations has come and gone, they can file paperwork to ask the court to throw out your case.

This is called filing a motion for summary judgment. In the case of a motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations, the other side has to tell the court that you both agree that the date your injuries occurred is beyond the statute of limitations.

In the event that the court agrees, they’ll throw out your case. There’s no middle ground where you can recover a portion of your damages. You recover nothing even if you otherwise have a great case.

Are There Some Cases Where the Statue of Limitations Doesn’t Apply?

There are some cases where the statute of limitations stops. These are unique situations where the law says that it’s not fair to strictly apply the statute of limitations. To stop the clock on the time limit is called tolling the statute. Florida law 95.051 lists the reasons that the statute of limitations might toll in your case:

  • The “discovery rule” – In the rare event that you don’t notice your injury until sometime after it happens, you can bring your claim within four years after you realize your injuries. You can’t ignore obvious signs of your injuries.
  • When the defendant flees the state to avoid service
  • When the defendant hides or uses a fake identity to avoid service
  • If you’re mentally incapacitated, and you can’t possibly know to bring a claim. In this case, the time limit is seven years.

Different Types of Cases Have Different Deadlines

The time limit is four years for almost all types of injury cases. This includes actions based on negligence. Negligence occurs when you get hurt because someone else isn’t careful enough. Four years is also the time limitation for most injuries that are intentional. If someone hurts you on purpose including in an assault and battery, the same statute of limitations applies.

Wrongful Death Cases

In cases of wrongful death, the time limit is two years.

Medical Malpractice

The time limit for a medical malpractice case is two years. If you don’t realize the malpractice until some time after it occurs, you can have up to another two years from the date you become aware of the mistake. Children have four years to file, or up to their eighth birthday.

Minors

There are special rules that apply to minors in some situations. If a minor doesn’t have a parent, guardian or guardian ad litem to bring the claim, they might have up to seven years to bring their claim.

Also, if the minor’s legal guardian has an interest that’s contrary to the interest of the minor, the minor can have more time. The maximum time limit for a minor is seven years.

Why Does Florida Have a Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations exists because Florida lawmakers think that it’s good public policy to have time limits for filing cases. Lawmakers believe that the time limits encourage people to bring their claims quickly. They say that it’s best to decide cases when the evidence is fresh. Over time, witnesses can become unavailable, and memories can fade. Setting a time limit encourages litigants to file their cases sooner rather than later.

Having a time limit also allows for finality. At some point, potential parties to a lawsuit know that there’s no longer a possibility of anyone filing a claim. Claims, counterclaims, and cross-claims are all extinguished when the time limit runs out. All of the parties know that a lawsuit isn’t going to be successful if it’s after the deadline.

What If There Might Be a Criminal Case?

There might be a criminal case that’s related to your civil case. For example, the person responsible for your injuries might face a drunk driving charge or charges of assault and battery. Even if the other side in your case must answer to a criminal charge, the criminal case doesn’t stop the statute of limitations. It’s still up to you to make sure that you get your claim filed on time.

What Does This Mean for Me?

If you’re hurt because of a personal injury, it’s important to do your part to get your claim filed right away. The other side might try to stall you as long as possible so that you miss the deadline.

You should contact your Tampa personal injury attorney as soon as you can to begin working on your case. An experienced attorney can help you take the right steps to protect your rights and bring your claim.

Contact Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys Today

At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys we have over 35 years of experience with all types of personal injury cases and can help you ensure you maintain your ability to recover. Jack Bernstein is dedicated to protecting the rights of Tampa residents and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

Call (813) 333-6666 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case evaluation today. There is no fee unless we win.

About the Author

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

For more than 35 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.