Statutes of Limitations in Florida
What is a statute of limitations?
So, what is a statute of limitations? A statute of limitation is a statute—an enactment in the legal system—that determines the maximum amount of time that can pass after an incident before legal proceedings based on the incident must commence. Statutes of limitations apply to both civil law (the type of law we handle) and criminal law (the type of law the government executes). There are some instances in which there are no applicable statutes of limitations. For example, in the United States, what are deemed to be “heinous crimes” carry no associated statute of limitations. Thus, as a general rule, there is no statute of limitations on murder. This means that if you committed a murder 10, 20, 30, even 40 years ago, you can still be prosecuted for that crime today. (The caveat is that many judges will not hear murder cases decades old because many believe that such a delay violates the accused individual’s right to a speedy trial, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).
As noted above, in our legal practice we concern ourselves with civil law—specifically tort law—and, because we are based in Florida, this blog will discuss and explicate statutes of limitations related to tort law here in the Sunshine State.
Let’s start with medical malpractice cases—cases in which the victim, a patient, has suffered injury or death due to the negligence of a medical practitioner, healthcare provider, etc. In Florida, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is 2 years. That means that after the negligent incident in question—botched surgery, faulty diagnosis, negligent prescription, etc.—the patient has only two years, or 24 months, before then must initiate legal proceedings against the negligent party. If the patient and their attorney fail to act in a timely manner, the negligent party will be excused from facing charges and the victim may never have the chance to seek justice in the given case.
Next: negligence resulting in personal injury (in the form of auto accidents, boating accidents, slip and falls, etc). For personal injury cases stemming from the aforementioned incidents, and many others that result in personal injury, the statute of limitation is 4 years. Thus, from the day of the incident that caused you personal injury, you have no more than four years—48 months—before you must initiate legal proceedings against the negligent party or forever surrender your right to seeking justice. There is one exception to the 4-year rule: cases in which your claim is for uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage. This type of case—even though the issue emanates from a car accident—is considered a contract issue rather than an issue of negligence, and in these instances, the statute of limitations is 5 years.
Like the statute of limitations for personal injury cases like those mentioned above, the statute of limitations on product liability cases in four years. This means that you only have (at most) 4 years from the date that you discovered the injury—or from the date that you reasonably should have discovered the injury—to initiate legal proceedings against the responsible party. So, if you discovered the injury the day after use of the product on, for example, May 1st, 2013, you have until that date in 2017 to file a lawsuit against the responsible party.
Statute of limitations are designed to expedite proceedings in the legal system, to encourage speedy legal maneuverings and to protect a defendant—the third point is based on the assumption that if there were a solid foundation for a lawsuit, the suit would have been filed in a timely manner, not a decade later. This statute of limitations should not be seen as necessary “limiting” from a plaintiff’s point of view. In fact, is can be seen as encouragement to seek justice in a swift, expedient manner.
If you or anyone you know has a personal injury issue at hand, or questions about anything discussed in this blog, please contact us at the Law Offices of Aronberg and Aronberg for a free consultation by calling 561-266-9191 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.