Florida Car Accident Laws

The Florida deadline for filing a car accident lawsuit, the state's rules on shared fault for a crash, and drivers' legal duties to report a car accident in Florida.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

If you've been involved in any kind of traffic accident in Florida, there are a number of state laws to understand—including a few that could have a big impact on any insurance claim or lawsuit you decide to file. We'll tell you what you need to know.

We begin with a discussion of Florida's no-fault insurance system, including the compensation you can collect if you're hurt in a Florida car accident. We'll also cover what happens if you're partly to blame for a wreck, your reporting obligations after a collision, the Florida deadline for filing car accident lawsuits, and more.

Florida Is a No-Fault Car Insurance State

Florida is one of a dozen or so states that follow a no-fault car insurance scheme. That means drivers must typically turn first to their own personal injury protection (PIP) car insurance coverage to get compensation for medical bills and other losses after a crash, regardless of who might have been at fault.

An insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver is only possible if car accident injuries meet a certain threshold. To learn more about who can make a no-fault claim in Florida, what's covered, and more, check out our coverage of the Florida no-fault car insurance rules.

What Car Accident Losses Are Compensated In Florida?

The answer here depends on whether:

  • you're making a no-fault/PIP car insurance claim with your own car insurance company, or
  • the extent of your injuries means you're able to step outside of Florida's no-fault system and make a liability claim against the at-fault driver.

First, with a no-fault/PIP claim, Florida law mandates the following benefits to claimants:

  • 80 percent of reasonable medical expenses to treat car accident injuries
  • 60 percent of income lost because of the accident and injuries, and
  • $5,000 in death benefits (paid to the estate or relatives of the deceased person).

When Can I Get "Pain and Suffering" Compensation After a Florida Car Accident?

If you're able to circumvent no-fault and file a liability insurance claim or lawsuit, you're entitled to compensation for the full spectrum of your losses (these losses are called "damages" in the language of the law), including:

  • full payment of your medical bills stemming from your car accident injuries
  • compensation for your mental and physical pain and suffering (a category of damages that can come with significant compensation, and which isn't available in a no-fault/PIP claim), and
  • lost income and other economic losses related to the accident.

The Florida Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits

Let's assume your car accident injuries let you step outside of Florida's no-fault car insurance system and file a car accident lawsuit against the driver who caused your crash. Now's the time to understand the "statute of limitations," which is a law that sets a time limit on your right to file your lawsuit.

In most situations, you have two years, starting from the date of the crash, to get your car accident case started in the Florida court system. This two-year deadline applies to all lawsuits based on "negligence," which is the fault theory that's used in most car accident cases. (Note: This latest version of Florida's injury-related statute of limitations took effect on March 24, 2023. If your car accident injury occurred before that date, the previous version of the statute of limitations likely applies, and you'll have four years to get your lawsuit filed, starting on the date of your accident.)

If you don't get your lawsuit filed before two years have passed, you've almost certainly lost your right to hold the at-fault driver responsible for your injuries and other crash-related losses.

Are There Ways to Extend the Statute of Limitations In Florida?

The standard two-year timeline for filing a car accident lawsuit in Florida might be changed if:

  • the injured person was legally "incapacitated" at the time of the accident (but note that no more than seven years may pass between the date of the accident and the filing of the lawsuit, so an extension under this exception is not open-ended)
  • the at-fault driver left the state of Florida at some point after the accident, and before the lawsuit could be filed, or
  • the at-fault driver took steps to conceal themselves in Florida, or changed their name or identity, in order to avoid being "served" with the lawsuit.

These exceptions (and more) are spelled out at Fla. Stat. § 95.051 (2024).

What If I'm Partly At Fault for My Florida Car Accident?

If the other driver was entirely at fault for your car accident, and you're able to step outside of no-fault because of the seriousness of your injuries, the other driver (or more often, their insurance company) will be liable to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you suffered. But what happens if you were partly at fault for the crash?

Florida follows a "modified comparative fault" rule when both parties are found to share blame for an accident. In the rare event that a car accident lawsuit goes to trial, the jury will be asked to calculate two things based on the evidence:

  • the total dollar amount of the plaintiff's damages, and
  • the percentage of fault that each party bears.

Under the modified comparative fault rule, the plaintiff's damages award is reduced by a percentage equal to their share of fault. If that share exceeds 50 percent, the plaintiff can't recover compensation from any other at-fault party.

How Does Florida's Comparative Negligence Rule Work In a Car Accident Case?

Suppose that the jury decides your total damages award should be $100,000 (including your medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, and "pain and suffering"). But the jury also decides you are 40 percent responsible for the accident (maybe you were speeding). Under Florida's comparative fault rule, you are entitled to get 60 percent of the $100,000 total, or $60,000—still a significant sum, but not as much as the grand total of your damages.

But if we flip the fault shares around so that the plaintiff is now deemed 60 percent to blame for the crash, the plaintiff is now barred from recovering compensation in court.

Will Florida's Comparative Fault Rule Affect My Car Insurance Claim?

Not only does the comparative negligence rule bind Florida judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when they're evaluating your car insurance claim. A claims adjuster makes decisions based on what's likely to happen in court, after all.

When Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Florida?

Under Florida law, you have to report a car accident when the accident involves one or more of the following circumstances:

  • the death of any person
  • injury to any person, or
  • damage to any vehicle or property in an apparent amount of at least $500.

(Fla. Stat. § 316.065 (2024).)

Immediately Report the Accident to the Police

Drivers are required to immediately report the accident using the "quickest means possible" to one of the following authorities:

  • the local police department if the crash happened in a city
  • the county sheriff, or
  • the nearest station of the Florida Highway Patrol.

For most drivers, the "quickest means of communication possible" is a phone call from the scene of the accident.

Report the Accident to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Florida law requires law enforcement officers to submit a "Florida Traffic Crash Report, Long Form" to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles ("the Department") within 10 days of completing an investigation when the crash involved:

  • a death
  • an injury or complaint of pain or discomfort by anyone involved in the crash
  • a hit and run
  • driving under the influence
  • a commercial vehicle, or
  • vehicle damage that requires a wrecker to remove it from the scene of the crash.

Drivers involved in accidents that don't require a law enforcement report have to submit their own written report to the department on a form approved by the department within 10 days of the crash.

(Fla. Stat. § 316.066 (2024).)

What If a Driver Is Seriously Injured?

Drivers who are seriously injured in a crash and incapable of making a report are excused from reporting the accident while they are incapacitated.

If an incapacitated driver had a passenger in the car at the time of the crash, the passenger must report the crash for the driver. If the owner of the car is different from the driver, the owner must report the crash for the driver within 10 days of the crash.

(Fla. Stat. § 316.064 (2024).)

Penalties for Not Reporting an Accident in Florida

Failing to report an accident to the authorities in Florida is a noncriminal traffic infraction. The punishment for a noncriminal traffic infraction is a fine only (no jail or prison time).

What Car Insurance Do I Need In Florida?

As we discussed above, Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, but that's not all vehicle owners need to know about insurance requirements, especially after a car accident. Get the details on Florida car insurance rules and requirements.

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