Statute of Limitations
Many people that have been injured by the negligence of another often wonder how long they have to decide whether to pursue a claim. In addition to the numerous strategic benefits of acting quickly, there are legal reasons why it is important not to delay filing suit, namely, that Florida has strict time limits for filing lawsuits.
The statute that governs the amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit is commonly referred to as the "statute of limitations." In Florida, the statute of limitations for civil matters is found at section 95.11 of the Florida Statutes. Criminal cases are governed by a separate statute.
The civil statute of limitations sets forth a number of different time limits depending on the type of lawsuit. If a plaintiff fails to initiate a lawsuit within the time afforded by the statute of limitations, the plaintiff is not permitted to file suit, regardless of the severity of the plaintiff's injuries or damages suffered. That is why it is important to speak with an attorney immediately, if you believe you have a claim.
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases
For most personal injury claims, a plaintiff has 4 years from the date of injury to initiate a lawsuit against the individual or business that negligently caused the injuries. If the injured party died as a result of the injuries, however, a wrongful death lawsuit must be initiated within 2 years from the date of death. This can significantly shorten the amount of time in which a grieving family has to decided whether to pursue a claim. That is why it is critical to consult with an attorney with experience handling personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Medical Malpractice Cases
Similarly, if an individual suffers injuries from another person's negligence, but that other person was a healthcare provider that negligently treated the injured party, the claim must be pursued within 2 years from the date of the negligent medical care or within 2 years from the date that the negligent care was discovered (or should have been discovered with due diligence). However, if the negligence was only first discovered more than two years after the underlying care, the lawsuit must begin within 4 years. For example, if a radiologist's failure to identify a malignant tumor is not discovered until 3 years after the radiologist interpreted the initial radiological images, the patient only has 1 year to begin the lawsuit, not 2 years.
In very rare cases, where a healthcare provider fraudulently or intentionally concealed the negligent treatment, which is exceedingly rare, an action may be pursued within 7 years. The only exception relates to the delayed discovery of negligence in the treatment of a baby or young child. If the negligent treatment of a baby or young child is not revealed for more than 4 years, a claim may still be pursued, as long as the lawsuit begins before the child's 8th birthday.
Conclusion: Don't Delay
Generally, in Florida a plaintiff has 4 years to file a personal injury lawsuit and 2 years to file a wrongful death or medical malpractice lawsuit. However, as noted above, there are important exceptions and other factors at play when determining how long a plaintiff has to file lawsuit. If a claim or lawsuit is not started in time, the opportunity to recover for your damages may be forever lost. That is why it's important for a potential plaintiff to contact an attorney immediately.
Contact Robert to discuss your case and allow him to guide you through Florida's complex civil litigation process.