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What is a “Statute of Limitations” and Why is it Important?

These are laws passed by legislative bodies to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be filed. When the time specified in a statute of limitations passes a claim can no longer be filed.

These laws are enacted to give certainty to potential litigants and to make sure claims that are so stale cannot be filed. For example, if you were injured in a car accident 20 years ago, the doctors who treated you may no longer be available, records may have been destroyed and other witnesses may be deceased or gone.

All states have statutes of limitations and they are included in the Federal Statutes. The length of the term varies according to the type of claim.

In Florida, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years, for medical malpractice, it is two years, for general negligence claims (like car crashes that do not involve death) the statute is four years. In contract cases, there is a five-year statute.

Florida Statutes section 95.11(3) gives you four years starting from the date of the underlying accident or incident (or car crash) in which to file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for negligence. If a person is killed in a car accident or other incident, there is a two-year deadline.

What Does It All Mean?

Essentially, it means that if you do not make a claim for damages from a car crash in Florida within two years (for death) or four years (for injuries not resulting in death) then you will have no right to compensation.

It doesn’t matter how bad the injuries are, or how bad the actions of the at-fault party. If requested from an insurance company, they will deny the claim. If the suit is filed, the court will dismiss it. It may sound harsh, but that’s how the law works for car accident cases in Florida. That’s why you should always contact a car accident lawyer that is an expert as soon as possible if you have a claim.

Claims Against the State or Local Governmental bodies have a different time deadline.

In Florida, wrongful death claims must be filed within 2 years and all other claims within 3 years. There is also a notice requirement that must be met before a suit is filed. This is a very complex area of Florida auto accident law.

There are Some Narrow and Specific Exceptions to the Finality of the Statute of Limitations.

Certain situations will “toll’ or pause the running of time for purposes of the statute. These situations can extend time deadlines.

  • If the injured person is a minor, the statute may be extended seven years from the date of the injury.
  • If a person is incapacitated at the time of the incident, the same seven-year period may apply.
  • If the person who caused the injury left the state before the lawsuit could be filed, the time may be extended. The person who caused the incident took steps to conceal himself or changed his or her name or identity to avoid the process, then the deadlines may be extended.

It should also be noted that these deadlines vary greatly from state to state. Many states require auto claims to be filed within two years and some even one year. If the crash occurs in another state, generally that state’s law will apply, even if the injured party lives in Florida.

As you can see there are many complicated legal issues involved with the statute of limitations. Failure to file timely can extinguish even the most worthy case. This is why you need to consult a board-certified Florida personal injury lawyer as soon as possible if you have a claim.

Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

If you’ve been the victim of an auto accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Instead, follow the car wreck checklist and put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit