Florida's statute of limitations for personal injury and medical malpractice casesIf another person’s negligence injures you, you must know there is a limited window of time to file a lawsuit against that person. If you wait too long, you will be unable to recover compensation, even if that person was 100 percent at fault for your injuries. Our state’s limited windows of time, or Florida statutes of limitations, are one of the most important reasons why it is imperative that you do not delay in contacting an attorney after a serious injury.

What is the purpose of a statute of limitations?

The purpose of a statute of limitations is threefold.

Protects the Validity of Cases

First, it guarantees that victims bring lawsuits in a timely fashion when they can still collect reliable evidence.

For example, would you rather rely on witness testimony that is over twenty years old or testimony based on facts that happened this year, while the accident is still fresh in the witness’s mind? Other pieces of evidence such as blood samples, machine maintenance reports, and safety certifications may become nearly impossible to locate after several years.

Protects Defendants

In addition, it stops potential defendants from having to look over their shoulders for the rest of their lives. For example, if a driver causes an accident, even though he was at fault, it is not fair to the driver to have to worry for the next 15 years if the other party is going to come after him. This makes it possible for potential liable parties to defend against accusations.

Prevents Overcrowding

Statutes of limitations also prevent further overcrowding. Florida’s court system is already overworked and courts must book cases months in advance. For practical reasons alone, the line must be drawn somewhere. The Florida legal system can only handle so many cases each year.

What is the statute of limitations for most personal injuries in Florida?

For most cases, the statute of limitations for personal injuries in Florida is four years from the time the accident occurred. This time frame is set by Florida Statute § 95.11(3)(a) and specifically applies to personal injury cases based on negligence.

However, depending on a variety of factors — including the age of the parties involved and whether or not the defendant is a government entity — the period of time for your case could be longer or shorter.

Do minors get more time to file a lawsuit?

Yes, minors may be entitled to additional time outside of the standard statute of limitations. In Florida, per Florida Statute § 95.051, minors have until seven years after the injury date or until the end of the standard statute of limitations to file their personal injury lawsuit, whichever period of time is longer.

The reason minors get extra time is because their time window “tolls,” or temporarily pauses, while they are legal incapable of filing a claim. The same tolling can apply for other legally incapacitated people, such as the legally insane.

What is the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits?

Medical malpractice lawsuits are to recover compensation for injuries resulting from a health care procedure, such as surgery. Typically, victims must file lawsuits based on medical malpractice within two years of the time of the injury under Florida Statute § 95.11(4)(b).

Are there any exceptions?

This two-year time period can toll if the victim does not discover the injury right away. For example, if a surgeon accidentally leaves a foreign object inside a patient after an operation, but no one knows about it until three years later when complications start, the injured patient can still bring a lawsuit against the surgeon.

In these cases, victims must file claims within two years of the date of discovery or of the date when a reasonable person would have discovered the injury (known as the “discovery rule”).

Just as with personal injury cases based on negligence, minors have a little more leeway than adults on when they must file a medical malpractice claim. For minors, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is four years or before the child’s eighth birthday, whichever is longer.

Are there any absolute deadlines?

Florida has a very strict rule called the statute of repose. This rule makes it impossible to file a medical malpractice case after the statute of limitations runs out in certain situations.

Under this rule, regardless of when the victim discovered the injury, all victims must file medical malpractice cases no later than four years after the original cause of the injury.

In very special cases, such as where the medical professional used fraud to purposefully keep the injury secret from the patient, the time can extend two years from the discovery but no longer than seven years.

What is the statute of limitations for product liability?

Injured victims must file product liability cases, which are cases for injuries resulting from a defect or design flaw in a manufactured item, within four years of the day the accident occurred.

Is there any reason I would not be able to file a claim?

Under Florida law, injured parties cannot file product liability claim if the injury occurred more than 12 years after the date of purchase. Per Florida Statute § 95.031, all products “are conclusively presumed to have an expected useful life of 10 years or less.”

This means that if your hair straightener that you bought 13 years ago malfunctioned and caught on fire, you would be unable to recover compensation as the law will assume it is past its “useful life”.

Can I get help with my injury claim?

As with many areas of the law, the statutes of limitations for personal injury cases are complex. It can be difficult to know whether you fall into an exception for more time or not. Do not miss your window of opportunity to recover damages. Speak with a personal injury attorney from Montero Law today to preserve your right to sue.

Contact us today: 954-767-6500.