What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Florida?

Florida's personal injury statute of limitations sets a strict time limit on your right to ask a court for compensation for your losses stemming from an accident.

By , J.D.

Whether you've been involved in a car accident, a slip and fall, or any other incident where someone else's negligence caused you harm, if you're thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, it's crucial to understand and comply with the statute of limitations for these kinds of cases. Read on for the details on the filing deadline set by this Florida law, why the deadline is so important, and when it might be extended.

Four Years is the Standard Time Limit for Florida Personal Injury Lawsuits

Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(a) gives you four years, typically starting from the date of the underlying accident or incident, to file a civil lawsuit seeking a legal remedy (compensation) for "an action founded on negligence." That includes almost all conceivable types of personal injury lawsuits, since most are governed by the liability principle of "negligence".

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?

If you try to file your personal injury lawsuit after more than four years have passed since the underlying accident or incident, it's a near-certainty that the defendant (the person you're suing) will point this fact out to the court, and the court will summarily dismiss your case. If that happens, you''ll have lost your right to seek damages for your injuries, no matter how significant they might be, and no matter how clear the defendant's liability, unless you are entitled to an extension of the statute of limitations under a rare exception (more details on these exceptions later).

It's important to note that the Florida personal injury statute of limitations isn't just a factor if you've decided to take your injury case to court via a formal lawsuit. The filing deadline set by this law is also crucial to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and his or her insurance company. And if the four-year deadline has passed, it goes without saying that you'll have lost all your leverage. After all, "I'll see you in court" is the very definition of an empty threat if the other side knows that your filing a lawsuit is now a procedural impossibility.

Exceptions to the Florida Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

Florida has identified a variety of different factual scenarios that might serve to delay the running of the statute of limitations "clock," or pause the clock after it has started to run, effectively extending the four-year filing deadline set by Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(a).

Here are some examples of circumstances that are likely to modify the standard four-year timeline for the filing of a personal injury lawsuit in Florida:

  • the injured person had been legally deemed "incapacitated" (i.e. was subject to a temporary or permanent mental illness) at the time of the underlying 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 person who allegedly caused the injury (the defendant) left the state of Florida at some point after the underlying accident, and before the lawsuit could be filed, and
  • the defendant took steps to conceal him/herself in Florida, or changed his or her name or identity, in order to prevent "process" (the lawsuit and summons) from being served.

These exceptions (and more) are spelled out at Florida Statutes section 95.051.

If you have questions about how Florida's statute of limitations applies to your potential personal injury lawsuit -- especially if the deadline has passed or is looming -- it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced Florida personal injury attorney.

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