If you've had your property damaged in Florida, you could be thinking about filing a lawsuit against the person or organization you think is legally responsible for what happened. If so, it's important to understand Florida's statute of limitations for property damage claims, whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property (including vehicle damage).
In case you're not familiar with the term, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that limits how much time can pass until you effectively lose your right to file a lawsuit over a legal dispute or harm suffered. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.
In Florida, a four-year filing deadline applies to any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed property, whether it's real property or personal property. Specifically, Florida Statutes section 95.11 says that a four-year time limit applies to the following kinds of civil lawsuits filed in the state's courts:
It's important to note that this four-year deadline applies any time you're asking a court to award you monetary compensation for damaged or destroyed property, whether that claim is part of a larger legal action or a standalone lawsuit. Of course, given that the same statute of limitations applies to all negligence-based lawsuits in Florida, chances are that any case involving both personal injury and property damage (a car accident case for example) will be subject to the same four-year filing deadline.
If you try to file your Florida property damage lawsuit after the four-year deadline has passed, the defendant (the person or organization you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare cases where an exemption from the deadline applies (more on these exceptions in the next section), the court will grant the dismissal. If that happens, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So, even if you're pretty sure your property damage case will settle, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.
In a Florida property damage lawsuit -- and most other kinds of civil lawsuits, for that matter -- a number of situations could pause ("toll" in legalese) or extend the lawsuit filing deadline set by the statute of limitations. These include:
Other exceptions may also apply to extend the Florida statute of limitations time limit, but they're too complex to cover in this article. (You can see them all listed at Florida Statutes section 95.051.)
If the four-year deadline has passed on your property damage lawsuit -- or if the deadline is fast approaching -- it's time to talk with an experienced Florida attorney to understand your options and protect your rights.