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How Long Do I Have To File A Personal Injury Lawsuit In Florida?

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Filing a personal injury lawsuit means understanding and following a number of procedural rules. Many of these rules are strictly enforced. This means that failure to comply can result in dismissal of your case regardless of the merits. 

One rule that fits within this strict-compliance description is the statute of limitations. This is basically the deadline to initiate a lawsuit under Florida law. In other words, if you do not file and serve a complaint within the limitations period, the court is legally barred from hearing your lawsuit. 

Four Years Is the Statute of Limitations in (Most) Negligence Cases 

The statute of limitations is determined by the Florida legislature, and different types of cases may be subject to different limitations periods. For personal injury claims–i.e., an “action founded on negligence”–the statute of limitations is normally four (4) years. But to give a contrasting example, if you file a lawsuit based on a breach of contract–say you want to sue your insurance company for not paying a claim–then the statute of limitations is five (5) years. 

When we say the limitation period is four years, when does that clock actually start to run? In most personal injury cases, the limitations period begins on the day the plaintiff suffered their injury. To give a simple example, you get into a car accident on April 1, 2018. If you decide to sue the other driver for damages, you would need to file your lawsuit by April 1, 2022, in order to comply with the statute of limitations. 

Now, there are situations where a court may extend the limitations period for cause. Normally this involves a scenario where the defendant has taken some action to avoid Florida jurisdiction. For example, if the defendant leaves the state before you could file your lawsuit, the court can toll (suspend) the limitations period until they return. 

Personal Injury vs. Wrongful Death 

It is important to note that when we talk about a “personal injury” claim, that is a lawsuit filed by a living person who has suffered a legally compensable injury. If a person is killed as the result of negligence, then that is the proper subject of a wrongful death lawsuit, which is subject to a separate statute of limitations in Florida. 

Specifically, the limitations period for Florida wrongful death claims is two years. And here, that means two years from the date of the victim’s death. This may not be the same as the date of injury. So let’s say a person was in a car accident on March 15, 2022. They were hospitalized and ultimately died from their injuries on May 15, 2022. Under Florida law, the statute of limitations for the estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit would be May 15, 2024. 

Speak with a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer from HD Law Partners Today 

The statute of limitations is just one of many legal minefields that victims need to navigate in bringing a successful personal injury claim. An experienced Tampa auto accidents attorney can provide you with skilled legal advice and representation. Contact HD Law Partners today to schedule a consultation. 

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