In every state, in both civil and criminal law, there are laws called statutes of limitations. These laws are time limits designed to ensure that particular legal actions happen within a reasonable period of time. In criminal law, a statute of limitations keeps the state from filing criminal charges for specific crimes after a reasonable amount of time has passed.

Let’s say that you stole a car as a teenager, twenty or thirty years ago, took the car for a joyride, abandoned it, and got away with it. The statute of limitations on car theft will keep your life today from being disrupted over something that happened decades ago.

In civil law, statutes of limitations are time limits for filing personal injury lawsuits and other civil claims. In the state of Florida, when someone is injured by the negligence of another person, the state’s statute of limitations restricts the amount of time that the injured person is allowed to file a claim for compensation.

If you are injured by someone else’s negligence and you elect to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, in most personal injury cases in Florida, the statute of limitations gives victims four years from the date of the injury to file a claim and launch the legal process.

However, if you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence in South Florida, you should put an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney on your case immediately. Over four years, memories can fail and evidence can deteriorate or even vanish. The earlier an attorney can begin to work on your personal injury claim, the better the chances are that your legal efforts will succeed.

What kinds of injuries are considered “personal” injuries under Florida’s four-year statute of limitations? Examples include the injuries suffered in traffic collisions, product liability cases where someone is injured while using a defective or dangerous consumer item, and premises liability cases where someone is injured because of a property owner’s negligence. Injuries sustained in situations like dog bites, boating accidents, and swimming pool accidents are also covered by the four-year statute of limitations.

If an injury victim does not file a claim within this four-year window, a Florida court will probably refuse to hear the case, but there are some exceptions. In some circumstances, for example, an injury victim may not discover that he or she was actually injured until some amount of time after the accident that caused the injury, and in these cases, the time allowed for taking legal action is usually extended.

IS THERE A STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?

Claims of medical malpractice are handled somewhat differently in Florida. A victim of medical malpractice in this state must file a lawsuit within two years of the date on which the harm resulting from the malpractice was or reasonably should have been discovered.

In most cases, however, no medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed in Florida more than four years from the actual date of the alleged malpractice incident – with two exceptions:

  • if some type of fraud was involved, such as an intentional effort to cover up the incident of medical malpractice
  • if the injured victim was less than eight years old when the alleged medical malpractice took place

MAY CLAIMS BE FILED AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT IN FLORIDA?

If you’re injured in an accident by a county bus, or if you trip on old carpeting and get hurt at City Hall, are you able to file a personal injury lawsuit in Florida against the state or against a county or city government? The answer is yes. In most cases, the state of Florida relinquishes its right to sovereign immunity and allows lawsuits against the government in almost any situation that a person or business could be sued.

However, before you can sue a government agency or employee in Florida, you must notify the state agency named in the claim – as well as the Florida Department of Financial Services – that you intend to seek damages. You have three years from the date of the original incident to send this claim notification, in writing, and no lawsuit can proceed until the agency has 180 days to conduct an investigation unless the agency rejects the claim before 180 days have passed.

Don’t wait three years. In South Florida, speak to an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an injury caused by negligence. If the party that injured you was a Florida state or local governmental agency or employee, your attorney can help you write and file the notification claim and provide the additional legal advice that you’ll need.

Upon receiving your notification claim, the government agency may offer a settlement. Don’t agree to any settlement unless your attorney believes the offer is right for you.

If no settlement is offered or reached, after the claim is rejected or after 180 days have passed, a person who has been injured by a Florida state or local government agency or employee may file a personal injury lawsuit if negligence caused the injury, if the losses can be compensated monetarily, and if the negligent agency or employee could have been sued had the negligent party been a private party.

In Florida, the amount of damages available to plaintiffs in personal injury cases against a government agency or employee is capped by law at $200,000 (or $300,000 if the claim is filed against more than one governmental body or agency).

IS THERE A STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS?

In this state, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is two years, and exceptions are extremely limited. Florida law requires a wrongful death claim to be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. If a representative is not named in the will or estate plan, he or she will be named by the court.

A wrongful death claim in Florida is filed on behalf of the deceased person’s estate and any surviving family members. Family members who may receive damages include the deceased person’s spouse, children, and parents, and any relative or adopted sibling who has been “dependent on the decedent for support or services.”

Statutes of limitations can be quite baffling in Florida. The law spells out a variety of exceptions to the statutes, so determining precisely how long a person has to file a personal injury claim in any particular case may be quite difficult. An experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney can address any questions and concerns that personal injury victims and their families may have regarding civil statutes of limitations in the state of Florida.