Florida Personal Injury Laws and Statutes of Limitations

Learn about the laws that are likely to impact your personal injury lawsuit, such as filing deadlines, where your case will be filed, limits on the compensation you can collect, and more.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

You were injured in Florida—hit by a careless driver, fell on a neighbor's dangerous sidewalk, or hurt by a negligent doctor—and you're considering a personal injury (PI) insurance claim or lawsuit. Chances are that like most Floridians, you don't know much about your state's personal injury laws. We'll get you up to speed on the basics.

One of the first things you need to know is how long you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Florida. We'll walk you through the filing deadlines for the most common types of cases. From there, we'll explain where your lawsuit will be filed, some of the rules that apply if you're suing the government, what happens if you're partly to blame for your injuries, and more.

Florida's Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

A "statute of limitations" is a law that limits your time to file a lawsuit in court. Starting with Florida's two-year general rule, here are the filing deadlines that apply to the most common kinds of PI cases.

The General Rule: Two Years From the Date of Injury

Florida's personal injury general rule is found at Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4) (2024). You have two years to file most kinds of PI lawsuits in court. The clock usually starts running on the date you were injured. In some cases—like when you don't know right away you've been hurt—it might begin later, giving you more time to sue. (See "the discovery rule," below.)

These are some of the PI cases that are covered by Florida's two-year general rule.

Injuries caused by negligence. Most personal injuries happen when the defendant (the party you're suing) doesn't act as carefully as they should under the circumstances. The law calls this "negligence." Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(a) (2024) gives you two years to sue for these (and other) negligence-based claims:

Medical malpractice cases. In a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit, you still have two years to file your case. But Florida's "discovery rule" applies. Instead of running from the date you were injured, the two-year medical malpractice filing deadline starts on the earlier of:

  • the date you discover the medical malpractice, or
  • the date you should have discovered it, had you been reasonably diligent to look for signs of an injury.

(Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(c) (2024).)

Wrongful death lawsuits. When personal injuries cause death, the victim's surviving relatives might decide to bring a wrongful death action. Under Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(e) (2024), the lawsuit must be filed within two years from the date of death.

(Learn more about Florida wrongful death lawsuits.)

Defamation of character. Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(h) (2024) puts a two-year deadline on lawsuits alleging defamation of character. This limitation period covers suits for slander (spoken defamation) and libel (written defamation).

(Here's more information about Florida defamation laws and lawsuits.)

Four-Year Filing Deadline for Intentional Injuries

Personal injuries sometimes result from intentional misconduct. When the defendant purposely or intentionally harms you, the law calls it an "intentional tort." You have four years to sue for these (and other) intentional torts:

What If I Miss Florida's Personal Injury Filing Deadline?

If you don't file your PI lawsuit before the statute of limitations deadline expires, and if no extension is available, your claim is legally dead. There's nothing you can do to bring it back to life. File a lawsuit and the court will dismiss it. Worse still, the court might sanction (penalize) you for filing a frivolous case.

Make sure you're absolutely certain about the lawsuit filing deadline in your case. If you aren't, contact a Florida lawyer right away.

Can Florida's Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Deadline Be Extended?

In limited circumstances, yes, Florida law allows the filing deadline to be extended. Here are a few examples.

The discovery rule. In most cases, the statute of limitations clock starts running on the date you were injured. But what if you don't know right away that you've been hurt? Your filing time could be ticking away while you're unaware that you have a possible claim. That's not fair.

To address this situation, Florida has adopted the "discovery rule." When you don't know you've been hurt, and there's no way you could discover your injury even if you were reasonably careful to look for signs and symptoms, this rule might give you more time to file. Instead of running from the date you were injured, the clock starts on the earlier of:

  • the date you discovered your injury, or
  • the date you should have discovered it, had you been reasonably careful.

Note, importantly, that the discovery rule doesn't apply in all cases. Before you rely on it, talk to a Florida personal injury lawyer.

Defendant leaves Florida or goes into hiding. When the defendant leaves Florida or goes into hiding to prevent you from suing them, Florida law might give you some relief. The statute of limitations doesn't run as to a defendant who:

  • is absent from Florida
  • assumes a new name you're unaware of, or
  • goes into hiding while in the state.

If you can arrange to have the defendant served with your lawsuit, this exception won't apply.

(Fla. Stat. § 95.051(1)(a)-(c) (2024).)

Injured person is legally disabled. Legally disabled persons—minors and those who've been found "insane" by a court—usually get more time to file a personal injury lawsuit. But the filing deadline can't be extended by more than seven years from the date of injury. (Fla. Stat. § 95.051(1)(d), (i) (2024).)

Where Do I File a Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Unless you're planning to sue in Florida small claims court—where your damages are limited to $8,000—you'll want to have an attorney prepare, file, and handle your personal injury lawsuit. Here's an overview of where your lawyer will file your case.

Florida operates a two-tiered court system, consisting of circuit courts and county courts.

  • The circuit court is Florida's court of general jurisdiction, meaning the court that's authorized to hear most kinds of criminal and civil cases. If you're asking for personal injury damages of more than $50,000, your case belongs in the circuit court.
  • Each of Florida's 67 counties has a county court. These courts are only authorized to hear civil cases (like personal injury lawsuits) involving up to $50,000. If you think your damages are more than this, you should file in the circuit court.

Your lawyer will choose the proper "venue" (location) for your case. Most often, it will be in the circuit or the county where:

  • the defendant lives, or
  • your injury happened.

What If My Injury Was Caused by the Government?

Suing the government—state or local—isn't like suing a private person or a business. You have to follow special rules and procedures. Even if you win, the damages you can be awarded are likely limited by law.

(Learn more about injury claims against the government in Florida.)

Pre-Lawsuit Notice

Before you can file a PI lawsuit against the State of Florida or a Florida county or municipality, you must provide written notice of your claim to:

  • for claims against the state, the state agency that's involved and the Florida Department of Financial Services, or
  • for claims against a county or municipality, to that government body, following the procedures it has established.

You have three years, usually from the date of your injury, to send this notice. If you're planning to sue for wrongful death, the notice deadline is two years. The lawsuit filing deadline is also three years for injury cases and two years for wrongful death suits.

(Fla. Stat. § 768.28(6)(a) (2024).)

Damage Limits

If you win your case against the government, the total damages you can collect are limited to:

  • $200,000 for one person, and
  • $300,000 for all claims arising from the same incident.

(Fla. Stat. § 768.28(5)(a) (2024).)

What If I'm Partly at Fault for My Injury In Florida?

In most personal injury cases, to win damages you must prove that the defendant was negligent. Quite often, the defendant will point the finger back at you, arguing that you were negligent too. Why? Because any negligence attributed to you reduces the damages you can collect. And if your share of the negligence is too high, you can't get any damages at all.

This is a legal defense called "comparative negligence," and a version of it is available in Florida.

Florida's "Modified Comparative Negligence" Rule

Florida follows a "modified comparative negligence" rule. Under this rule, your damages are reduced by a percentage equal to your share of the fault, or negligence, for the accident. (Fla. Stat. § 768.81(2) (2024).) But if your share of the negligence exceeds 50%, you can't recover any damages. (Fla. Stat. § 768.81(6) (2024).)

Example: Florida's Comparative Negligence Rule?

While grocery shopping one afternoon, you tripped and fell on a broken floor tile in one of the store's aisles. The fall broke your ankle. You sued the grocery store for negligence. The store answered that you were negligent too, and asked that your damages be reduced or eliminated based on your share of the fault.

After a jury trial, jurors found the store was 80% negligent. But they agreed with the store that you were also to blame and pinned the remaining 20% of the negligence on you. They assessed your total damages at $100,000. How much will you collect?

Because you were 20% at fault, you can recover 80% of your total damages: $100,000 x 80% = $80,000. The store's insurer will write you a check for that amount. What would be the outcome had the jurors decided you were 51% (or more) negligent? Under Florida's modified comparative negligence rule, you'd get nothing.

Florida Is a No-Fault Car Insurance State

Florida has adopted a no-fault auto insurance system. When you're injured in a wreck—no matter who was to blame—you look first to your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. PIP will pay for at least part of your medical bills, lost wages, and some other out-of-pocket expenses.

But PIP won't pay for other injuries like pain and suffering, disfigurement, or loss of enjoyment of life. If you want to recover for those losses, you must bring an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. You're allowed to do that only if your injuries are serious enough to meet one of Florida's "tort thresholds."

(Get more information about Florida no-fault car insurance.)

Florida's "Strict Liability" Dog-Bite Law

In some states, dog owners are liable for injuries their dog causes only when:

Florida takes a different approach. A negligent dog owner can be held liable for bite injuries, but Fla. Stat. § 767.04 (2024) makes dog owners "strictly liable" for any injuries their animal causes to a person in a public place, or while lawfully on private property. You're not required to show that the owner was negligent, or that the dog attacked before or had dangerous tendencies. The owner is legally on the hook for injuries:

  • regardless of the animal's past behavior, and
  • as long as the victim was lawfully on the property where the bite took place.

Does Florida Cap Personal Injury Damages?

Many states limit, or "cap," the damages that can be collected in personal injury cases. In some states, certain damages are capped in all PI cases. Others target damages only in some kinds of lawsuits. Medical malpractice and product liability claims are a favorite target.

Florida doesn't generally cap PI damages, either across the board or in specific cases. As discussed above, Florida (like nearly all states) limits the damages you can collect from the government.

In addition, Florida limits punitive damages, which are meant to punish a wrongdoer for particularly dangerous or reprehensible behavior. In injury lawsuits, Florida limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. (Fla. Stat. § 768.73(1)(a) (2024).) Punitive damages are rarely awarded in PI cases, so this cap isn't likely to impact the value of your case.

Get Help With Your Florida Personal Injury Case

We've covered some of Florida's basic personal injury laws. If you've been hurt and are planning a lawsuit, there's much more you need to know. A Florida personal injury lawyer knows your state's laws, court rules, and local case valuation and settlement practices. Your best chance of a successful outcome will come from having expert counsel on your side.

When you're ready to move forward, here's how you can find a lawyer in your area.

Make the Most of Your Claim
Get the compensation you deserve.
We've helped 285 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you