Statute of Limitations on a Car Accident in Florida
Florida’s statute of limitations used to give car accident victims four years to file a lawsuit. Recent changes to the laws now only provide two years.
If you are hurt in a car crash in this state, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property damages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish by filing a lawsuit. However, you must act quickly before the time limit to file your lawsuit runs out.
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Why Does Florida Have a Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents?
When you file a lawsuit, your goal is to prove what happened and who is responsible. By doing this as quickly as possible, you have a better chance of recovering your damages.
The longer a car accident victim waits to file, the more likely it is for evidence to disappear. Witnesses may move away or simply forget details over time. This statute of limitations benefits the injured party because it keeps delays out of the equation. The longer you wait, the easier it will be for the defendant to claim that you weren’t really injured, or that your injuries happened after the accident.
What You Need to Know About the Two-Year Statute of Limitations
The time limit imposed by the state for car accident cases is only a deadline to file a lawsuit. It does not restrict the time limit on filing your initial claim, nor does it impact how long a lawsuit can last.
However, if your attempts to file your car accident claim on your own through insurance are denied, you are offered too low of a settlement figure, or you are being blamed for the accident, you will want to consult an attorney and file your lawsuit quickly.
Since Florida uses a no-fault insurance system, this means that after an accident, you must go through your own insurance company first. You will need to check your policy, but the time limit may only be 30 days for you to submit a claim.
If you were partially at fault, you may still recover damages as well. As of 2023, Florida uses a modified comparative negligence model, meaning that accident victims can recover damages as long as they are found 50% or less responsible for causing their injuries.
Does the Statute of Limitations Apply to Every Type of Car Accident Claim?
While many car accidents are caused by negligence, it is not always the basis for a car accident lawsuit. If you are suing the party that caused your injury for a reason beyond negligence, then there may be a different time limit imposed in your case.
Here’s a look at certain situations where different statutes of limitations may apply for a car accident.
Sometimes, motor vehicle accidents are caused by vehicle defects. Whether your vehicle had a defect or the defendant’s was defective in some way, your lawsuit is now based on product liability instead of negligence.
Product liability follows strict liability, meaning that you can recover damages even if the defendant didn’t act negligently. The amount of time you have to take legal action will still be two years for injuries or a wrongful death.
In the event someone enters your property in a motor vehicle without permission and causes you injuries or damages, you can sue them for trespass.
An intentional tort like this will have four and two-year limits for personal injury and wrongful death claims. It’s best to speak with an attorney if you are in this type of situation.
When you are in a road rage incident that turns into an accident, you can file a car accident lawsuit based on assault. You will have two or four years to file under the statute.
What Exceptions Are Available with the Florida Statute of Limitations?
There are certain exceptions to Florida’s statute of limitations that may give you more time to file your lawsuit.
Known as tolling, it is a pause on the statute of limitations, much like a time-out during a sporting event. This pause can come into play in certain car accident situations.
When the Plaintiff Is a Minor
To sue in Florida, you need to have the capacity to do so. When the victim is a minor, they can’t bring about a lawsuit themselves.
The statute is then tolled until the minor victim turns 18. The extension you may receive if you were in an accident before the age of 18 could be two years to seven years.
Anyone who is injured in a car accident can only take legal action if they are physically and mentally capable. If someone suffers injuries that leave them mentally incapacitated or on life support, they are unable to take the steps to pursue a legal claim.
The statute of limitations allows up to seven years to file a lawsuit in this scenario, though the plaintiff will need to prove that they were indeed incapacitated.
When the Defendant Flees
Some defendants refuse to face the consequences of the mess they’ve left behind through their negligent actions.
If you are suing another party who leaves the state or even the country, your lawsuit would be put on hold until they return or are brought back to Florida. Time limits on these lawsuits are also tolled when defendants hide under a false identity or conceal their whereabouts from the authorities.
Both parties are always encouraged to try to settle disputes to ease the burden on the courts.
The statute of limitations is put on hold when these parties enter into arbitration. Once these proceedings are over, the clock starts ticking again.
The Defendant Has Passed Away
If you are suing someone and they die before the case can be resolved, the court will grant you an additional 90 days. This motion allows you to name the decedent’s representative as the defendant.
Different Types of Florida Car Accident Claims That May Impact Your Time Limit
Florida sees four types of claims for car accidents, each with its own time limits along with other requirements. It’s important to understand what is involved if you are considering filing a lawsuit for your car accident injuries.
Personal Injury Lawsuits
The most common type of car accident claim is a personal injury lawsuit where the plaintiff must prove the other driver was negligent.
Furthermore, if you wish to pursue this type of case, you need to show that it was the other party’s negligence that caused your injury and your damages. With the new laws in place, you have only two years from the date of your accident, unless you meet a special exception.
Property Damage Lawsuits
Filing property damage lawsuits is necessary when you have damage to your vehicle or other property. This type of case also requires you to file your lawsuit within two years from the date of the crash.
Product Liability Lawsuits
When an injury or death has occurred because of a defective vehicle or automobile part, you can file a product liability lawsuit.
The airbag may have been faulty upon deployment, causing you or your passenger serious injury, or the brakes may have had a defect that caused them to stop working. When product liability is at the root of an accident, you have two years to file your lawsuit.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Unfortunately, some car accidents leave families grappling with the loss of a loved one. Surviving family members can seek justice through wrongful death lawsuits by filing within two years from either the date of the accident or the date of death, whichever one is later.
What Happens If I Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline?
If you are hurt in a Florida car accident and do not take the steps to file a lawsuit within the time limit, you will likely have your case dismissed. You may qualify for one of the exemptions, though it’s ideal to discuss your legal situation with an attorney to be certain.
If you miss the deadline, you would have no legal way to seek compensation, even if the other person caused you serious injuries. This is why all car accident victims must start the process of filing a claim quickly. It helps to have an attorney review the offered settlement and proceed with a lawsuit if the amount offered is insufficient. Waiting too long will make it more difficult to prove your case and could result in you being unable to do anything about it at all.
If you have questions about your car accident case and how much time you have left to file, find a Jacksonville car accident lawyer to help you.
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