A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a limit on the amount of time you have to go to court and file a lawsuit. Each state has different deadlines—measured in years—that vary based on the kind of harm or loss that was suffered.
In Florida, the statute of limitations that applies to a vehicle accident case depends on whether the crash resulted in injury or in death.
If anyone was injured in a traffic accident—whether a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, electric scooter rider, or pedestrian—they must get their lawsuit filed within four years of the date of the crash, according to Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(a). Most of these cases are based on the legal argument that the negligence of one or more drivers ended up causing the accident and the claimant's resulting injuries. Learn more about car accidents caused by negligence.
The same four-year filing deadline applies to any lawsuit you want to file over damage to (or total loss of) your vehicle as a result of the accident. (Learn more about vehicle damage claims after a car accident.)
But if someone died as a result of the accident and their family wants to bring a wrongful death case against the at-fault driver, that kind of lawsuit must be filed within two years, and the "clock" starts on the date of the person's death. That deadline is set by Florida Statutes section 95.11(4)(d).
The court will almost certainly refuse to consider your case in this situation, unless a rare exception applies to effectively extend or pause the running of the statute of limitations "clock" in Florida. For example, a longer time limit might apply if:
It's important to to leave yourself plenty of time to file a car accident lawsuit, even if you're confident that your case will be resolved through the insurance claim process. At the very least, that strategy will give you more leverage during settlement talks. If the filing deadline is approaching, it may be time to contact an experienced Florida car accident attorney to talk about your options.
If you're looking for help beyond this article, it might make sense to discuss your situation (and your options) with an experienced legal professional. It's possible to handle a car accident claim on your own, if you're comfortable with the process and confident that you can fight it out for the best result. But there's usually no substitute for a lawyer's expertise, especially if your injuries are significant.
Learn more about how an attorney can help with your car accident claim. You can also get more details about Florida car accident laws that could affect your potential case.