You must preserve your rights to receive compensation in the aftermath of a car wreck in Florida. Although you are likely dealing with painful and traumatic injuries (both physical and psychological), you are not permitted to wait until these wounds heal before seeking monetary damages to pay for the costs of these injuries. Nor are you able to delay in filing a lawsuit until after you have seen what affects you experience from your Florida car wreck-related injuries five or ten years after the crash has happened. This is because all states, including Florida, have passed one or more statutes of limitations that restrict an injured driver’s or passenger’s ability to file and pursue a claim for compensation if a significant amount of time has transpired between the date of the car wreck and the time the person begins his or her car crash lawsuit. Knowing what the statute of limitations is in Florida and how it operates can help you take timely action in the event you or your loved one is hurt in a Florida crash.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits
There are several “statutes of limitations” in Florida; the specific type of case that a person seeks to file will dictate which of these statutes of limitations will apply to that person and that lawsuit. Florida Statute Section 95.11(3)(o) is the citation to the specific statute of limitations that applies in cases of car wrecks. This statute states that individuals hurt in a Florida car wreck have four years within which to commence a car wreck lawsuit. One can think of this statute as creating a timer or “countdown clock” that starts to run on the day a car wreck occurs. If a lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries stemming from that car wreck is not filed with the court and the allegedly-responsible person is not served with a copy of your claim, then you will generally be prohibited from obtaining any compensation at all from the responsible party.
How Florida’s Statute of Limitations for Car Wrecks Interacts with No-Fault Insurance Rules
Florida drivers already know that Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state. This means that a claim for compensation for injuries suffered in a car wreck must be submitted to your own insurance company for payment. You should know, however, that Florida’s statute of limitations for car wrecks does not give you any additional time to first seek compensation from your own insurance. For example, if you are hurt in a car wreck in Jacksonville on July 1, 2018, and you suffer permanent scarring as a result of your injuries, you will only have until July 1, 2022 to prepare and file your car wreck injury lawsuit with the court. This is true even if you first file a claim with your own insurance company and it takes them six months to pay part of your claim.
Can the Statute of Limitations Be Extended in Florida?
Statutes of limitations are, generally speaking, construed and applied strictly against the injured plaintiff. This means that there are few circumstances under which you can obtain additional time to start the civil recovery process. If you do not file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, the defendant (the person who injured you) will likely be able to obtain a dismissal of your case and you would not receive any compensation at all. In order to obtain an extension of the statute of limitations, you would be required to produce evidence to the court showing that:
- You did not know you suffered an injury at the time of the crash. When you are involved in a wreck, the adrenaline surge you experience can mask signs and symptoms of any injuries (and/or the severity of injuries) for a period of time. However, if you do not notice you suffered any harm in your car wreck until long after the wreck occurred, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit even if the statute of limitations has passed. Your capacity to do so will depend on whether a reasonable person in your situation would have had reason to know he or she was injured after a car wreck. While this may sound like good news, it is very difficult to prove these circumstances exist in any car wreck case. It is for this reason that you should seek treatment from the nearest emergency room or your doctor as soon as you are able to do so following a crash.
- The allegedly-negligent defendant is avoiding service of process. If you know the person who caused the car wreck and your resulting injuries, but this person is concealing his or her whereabouts such that you cannot locate him or her to serve him or her, the statute of limitations may be tolled (or stopped) until you know or should be able to determine the person’s location. Note that this exception, too, is very narrow and does not necessarily apply (for example) in cases where the defendant is not actively attempting to conceal his or her location or otherwise avoiding service of process.
There may be other situations and circumstances under which you can obtain an extension of the statute of limitations; however, the far better course of action is to plan to have your lawsuit started long before the four-year limitation is close.
Speak with Your Florida Car Accident Attorneys Today
Parker Waichman LLP will help ensure your car accident case is prepared and submitted in compliance with Florida’s strict statute of limitations so you can concentrate your energies and resources on recovering from your injuries and regaining control of your life. Contact Parker Waichman LLP as soon as possible to discuss your Florida car accident case by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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