Time Limitations on Lawsuits

Many clients and potential clients will ask in a first meeting if there is any particular time limitation for bringing a lawsuit related to a motor vehicle accident.  This is an excellent question and one that we always discuss with potential clients to ensure that no deadlines are missed when someone is injured in an automobile accident.  Florida law provides strict timelines within which lawsuits related to motor vehicle accidents must be filed.  These are known as statutes of limitations and are very important because, if you do not file a claim related to a motor vehicle accident within the applicable statute of limitations period, then your ability to file a lawsuit to recover damages for any injuries can be forever lost.  Therefore, it is important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible after you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident to ensure that any claims you may have as a result of an accident are not barred by the statute of limitations.

Statutes of Limitation Generally

The technical legal term for the law that sets forth the time limit within which you are required to file a lawsuit is known as the statute of limitations.  Different types of cases in Florida have different statutes of limitations.   For instance, the statute of limitations in Florida for filing a negligence claim based on personal injuries suffered in a car accident is four years from the date of the accident.  The statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice action is two years after the date of the malpractice, or in some instances the date the malpractice is discovered.  This means you must file your lawsuit within that period of time or else your ability to file a lawsuit to recover damages can be lost forever.  As you can see, it is extremely important to consult an experienced attorney as soon as you are injured so that you avoid any potential statute of limitations issues with respect to your claim.

Specific Statutes of Limitations under Florida Law

The statute of limitations for virtually every type of lawsuit that can be filed in a Florida state court is set forth in Section 95.11, Florida Statutes.  Under this statute, in cases relating to negligence in motor vehicle accidents, Florida has a four year statute of limitations.  The clock on this four years begins running from the date of the accident.  Therefore, if you were injured in a motor vehicle accident on December 10, 2014, then you would have four years from that date to file a lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident.  You cannot wait until four years and a day to file the suit.

The statute of limitations is different for personal injury lawsuits accidents than it is for actions for a wrongful death.   If a family member or friend  is tragically killed in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, then the decedent’s estate has only two years within which to file an action for wrongful death in Florida.  (They have two years from either the date of the accident if they were killed in the accident or two years from the date of their death, if the person later passes due to injuries suffered in the accident.)  Two years, of course, can go by very quickly especially when a family is trying to focus on recovering from the loss of a loved one.   An estate must be set up and a personal representative (typically the spouse or if unmarried, a parent or other relative) must be appointed.  As you can imagine there is a fair amount of work to be done to even be in a position to file the suit properly.  For this reason, it is important to contact us as soon as possible after the loss of a friend or relative due to an accident so that we can timely undertake the steps necessary to present the claim and file suit within the statute of limitations.

Consequences of Missing a Statute of Limitations

Failing to file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations can result in losing your ability to recover damages related to an accident.  You can still attempt to file a lawsuit, but generally the defendant(s) to the lawsuit will move to have the lawsuit thrown out on the basis that it is legally barred because it is filed too late.   As you can see, it is extremely important that you consult an experienced Florida accident attorney as soon as possible after your accident because to review with you the important deadlines that affect your claim and ability to make the claim.

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