If you think you may have a personal injury case, you should know that you have a limited time in which to file your claim. We've all heard the terminology "statute of limitations" used when referring to many different types of lawsuits and legal actions. It's important to know that it also pertains to filing a personal injury claim.
If you have been in an accident and are considering filing a personal injury claim, filing before the statute of limitations runs out is crucial. However, there is an even more important deadline you don't want to miss.
The longer you wait to seek medical attention, the lower the value of your case. If you wait even 72 hours after an accident, the insurance company may view your claim with suspicion. And according to Florida's Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law, you must receive medical care within 14 days of the accident if you want to receive certain compensation for your medical expenses or other damages.
If you've been injured in an accident or due to someone's negligence, and want to file a personal injury case, contact Weinstein Legal online now or call us at 954-845-0505 for a free consultation.
What Is the Florida Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?
While getting immediate medical attention is critical, adhering to the statute of limitations is also important. That's why you shouldn't delay at least getting a consultation about your case.
The main reason for the statute of limitations is to preserve the evidence. If the statute of limitations runs out, the person who caused the accident is essentially free from the responsibility to compensate you for your injuries.
In Florida, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a personal liability lawsuit for compensation due to negligence. This is covered in Florida Statute 95.11(3)(a). If you miss this deadline, the court will probably refuse to even hear your case.
What Claims Fall Under the 4-Year Florida Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?
The 4-year personal injury statute of limitations pertains to injuries caused by the following common South Florida personal injury accidents:
- Auto accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Uber and Lyft accidents
- Truck accidents
- Slips and falls due to negligence
- Bicycle accidents
- Boating accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
Exceptions to the 4-Year Florida Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
There are a few exceptions to the 4-year personal injury statute of limitations in Florida, such as:
In addition, claims against the government have a different set of deadlines. If a city or the state government is the defendant, you have three years from the date of occurrence to file your complaint. Once you've notified them, no lawsuit can be filed until after a 180-day investigation period, unless the claim is formally denied (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 768.28(6)(a) (2016)).
Sometimes, it is not clear if a government entity is involved in your suit, so it is always a good idea to contact an attorney as soon as possible and have the details of your case reviewed.
Penalties for Not Meeting the Filing Deadline
In most cases, if the deadline is missed, the case will be thrown out. The reason for this is that the case may become more complex and harder to prosecute. Circumstances may change for everyone involved during that timeframe. The evidence may not be available or may degrade, memories of the incident may become cloudy, and documentation may be lost.
In addition, if there were no statutes of limitations, you could file any suit at any time, and the system would become clogged and unable to function.
Are There Ways to Extend the Deadline for Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
If you miss the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit, there is a very good chance your case will be dismissed, regardless of how badly you were hurt or how clear the other side's liability may be, unless it meets specific criteria, such as:
- The defendant left the state – the statute of limitations stops running any time a potential defendant is out of state.
- The plaintiff is a minor (under 18), disabled, or mentally ill.
- The Discovery Rule applies.
What Is the "Discovery Rule"?
Sometimes, an injury may become apparent long after the deadline for filing a personal injury suit has passed. In these cases, if the victim has missed the deadline to sue, the discovery rule may let them extend the time allowed to sue for compensation and damages.
This rule generally applies in medical malpractice cases where a doctor has performed a procedure and caused harm that is not discovered until much later. It must be abundantly clear that the patient did not know and had no way of knowing before the statute of limitations ran out. In these instances, the courts use the standard of what a "reasonable person would be expected to know" to determine if the case can go forward.
When Should You File a Personal Injury Claim?
After you are injured in an accident, some time may go by before you realize how severe your injuries are. What at first seemed like minor pain and stiffness may turn out to be a whiplash injury. Even if you've only gotten minor injuries, the pain can linger for weeks or months after the accident before you can tell how much they will impact your life. And if you were seriously injured, your medical treatment and the bills it incurs may go on for quite a while.
Some accident victims think they have to wait until their treatment is completed before they file a claim, but this is not the case. In fact, it's best to get the process started as soon as possible. That's because if you wait too long, you'll miss the filing deadline and find yourself on the wrong side of the statute of limitations.
What Is the Process for Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
The personal injury claim process in Florida can be complex and confusing. It's best to hire a personal injury lawyer to shepherd your case through the legal system if you plan to file a personal injury claim. You don't have to hire a lawyer to file a personal injury claim, but having someone to represent you will ensure you get the best outcome.
Your attorney will send a demand letter formally requesting payment for damages. If the insurance company refuses to pay them or a compromise cannot be made, the case will go forward to the lawsuit stage, and the complaint will be filed. Then, the complaint will be served on the defendant and the defendant will have 20 days to respond.
The discovery process will begin, and your attorney and the defendant's attorney will begin to gather evidence and create a strategy for the case. Most personal injury cases are settled before the trial. A settlement is reached, and the lawsuit is dropped in exchange for monetary compensation (generally).
However, if the case goes to trial, both sides will present their case to the judge and/or jury. They will decide if the defendant is liable and for how much, or they will determine that the defendant is not responsible, and the case is dismissed.
Why Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Although the statutes of limitations may appear straightforward, there are many complicated exceptions to the rule. A personal injury attorney can help you understand how the statute applies to your specific case and the best way to file your case so that you are fairly compensated for your injury.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Weinstein Legal online or call 954-845-0505 for a free consultation.