Currently the statute of limitations for a car accident in Florida is four years from the date of injury.
While this may seem relatively straightforward, this time limit doesn’t apply to all cases. In fact, some claimants have unique circumstances that allow them to pause the time limit. However, some situations drastically cut down the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit.
Here’s an overview of the Florida statute of limitations, how it applies to car accident claims, and exceptions that might apply depending on the scenario.
Understanding the Car Accident Claims Process in Florida
In many states, those injured in a car accident file a claim with the responsible party’s insurance company. However, the process in Florida is different.
Instead, the state follows a no-fault rule, which means claimants must make a claim through their own auto insurance coverage after an accident. This coverage, known as personal injury protection or PIP, is required by Florida law.
So what does this mean for those injured in a car accident?
Essentially, Florida allows claimants to file a lawsuit against the other driver only if they have “serious” injuries as defined by state law, such as:
- Loss of bodily function,
- Permanent disability, or
In addition, the damages sustained by the claimant must generally exceed whatever PIP coverage they have. For most people, this is usually $10,000 at a minimum.
How the Florida Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Fits into the Process
While many claims don’t ever result in a lawsuit, it’s still important to keep the Florida auto accident statute of limitations in mind. This is because some injuries may worsen over time and eventually lead to disability or other complications.
It’s best to start building your case immediately after your accident as a safeguard just in case you find yourself needing to file a lawsuit. Ultimately, if you fail to bring the lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, the court may dismiss your case.
Potential Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in Florida for a Car Accident
While the statute of limitations applies in most situations, there are certain scenarios where the time limit may differ.
Many of these exceptions either “toll” the statute of limitations or shorten it, so it’s important to know if one of them applies to your case. Here are some of the circumstances that may affect your timeline for filing a lawsuit.
The Claimant Dies Due to Their Accident Injuries
If a loved one dies following their car accident, the case type changes from personal injury to wrongful death. In this case, you have two years from the date of the loved one’s death to file a lawsuit. This is only half of the time allotted for personal injury cases, so be sure to keep that in mind.
The Claimant Is Mentally Incapacitated or Under the Age of 18
In most states, victims cannot pursue a lawsuit if they are mentally unfit to make legal decisions. This includes situations where they are incapacitated or under the age of majority. Florida is no exception.
If a victim is unable to bring a lawsuit because they are under 18 years old or mentally incapacitated, the statute of limitations pauses until they reach majority or recover from the incapacity. However, they cannot bring the claim more than seven years from the date of injury.
Keep in mind that a parent or guardian can file a lawsuit on behalf of a minor or incapacitated person.
The Defendant Leaves the State
One situation where the statute of limitations for a car accident is tolled is when the defendant leaves the state.
Specifically, this exception applies when the defendant leaves before the claimant has a chance to file. In this case, Florida pauses the two-year time limit until the defendant returns to the state.
The Defendant Is a Government Entity
While the previous exceptions extend the time limit for filing a lawsuit, this exception actually shortens it. When a government employee or entity causes your car accident, you must go through a special claims process through them. In addition, you only have six months to present this claim to the responsible entity.
Questions About Your Claim’s Timeline? We’re Here to Help
The legal process can be intimidating, especially when trying to manage a claim while recovering from injuries. If you or a loved one receives an injury due to another’s negligence, don’t try to fight it on your own.
At Barrett, Nonni, Homola & Ferraro, our attorneys have 40+ years of experience aggressively advocating for clients in Tallahassee and throughout Florida. With an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell® and proven results, we know what is at stake for our clients.