The term “statute of limitations” is one of the more commonly known legal terms because of its simple but vital significance. The statute of limitations is important because it’s a deadline; especially important because it is a deadline that’s crucial for remedying wrongs. The statute of limitations is a law which sets the maximum time after an act or event when legal proceedings may be initiated. When the period of time specified in the statute of limitations passes, a claim can no longer be filed. The statute is dependent on the cause of action. A statute of limitations normally starts running at the time a claim accrues. Ordinarily, this is the time when an injury is suffered.
So you or a loved one has suffered an injury, what next? First, you must determine what type of action is applicable. Is it within any of the following categories: personal injury, wrongful death, workers’ compensation, product liability, or medical malpractice?
Once you’ve established the type of action you have, you must then determine which Florida statute of limitation applies. In Florida, The limitations on your right to sue for most torts is found in § 95.11.
The statute of limitations for any personal injury lawsuit founded on negligence is four years This would include lawsuits arising from car, motorcycle, truck, boat, and slip and fall accidents. The statute of limitations for personal injuries caused by intentional torts or civil wrongs, such as assault, battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution or malicious interference is also four years.
Personal injury actions pending at the time of death automatically terminate. A wrongful death action brought by a relative is the appropriate filing in this situation. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is two years from the date of death. However, if the death is allegedly caused by medical malpractice, then medical malpractice time limits are applicable (see below).
Under Florida’s workers’ compensation law, an employee or a deceased employee’s family must file a petition for benefits within two years from the date the employee or family knew or should have reasonably known that the employee’s injury or death was the result of a work-related injury or illness.
With a workers’ compensation action, two other time limits must also be considered. First, an employee must report the injury or illness to the employer within 30 days from the date of injury or illness, or when the “initial manifestation” of the injury occurred. Second, a claim is no longer open more than one year from the date of the last medical treatment or payment of compensation if the injury or illness occurred before January 1, 1994. If the condition occurred after January 1, 1994, this period is two years.
The statute of limitations for most product liability claims is four years from the date of injury or from the date when the injury was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. This term of four years is similar to that of a negligence action.
An allegation of medical malpractice must be filed within two years from the date the malpractice incident occurred or within two years from the date the incident is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. In no circumstance can an action be filed more than four years after the date of the alleged malpractice event unless the action is brought on behalf of a minor on or before the child’s eighth birthday.
It is important to note that limitations on the time to sue are not always dictated by Floridastatute. In my November Newsletter, I wrote about the Pettit vs. Carnival Corp. case In which the court ruled that a cruise ship passenger lost the right to litigate her claim for injuries received from a slip and fall accident. The court’s ruling was based upon the fact that Pettit filed a claim against Carnival after the one year statute of limitations had expired. As previously mentioned, negligence cases in Florida, which include slip and fall accidents, have a four year statute of limitation. However, Pettit had shortened the Florida statutory limitations period pursuant to terms contained in the contract she signed when she purchased her ticket.
Thus, as we can see in the Pettit case, the limits to the time one has to sue for a particular cause of action may not always be dictated by statute, but rather, such limits may be dictated by contract. Your time to sue may be limited by a contract term in a document that you may perceive is a simple contract or agreement! For example, an employment contract might require that any claim relating to the employment relationship, including wrongful termination, be filed within one year of the alleged wrongful act. Such contract clauses are accepted and regularly upheld by courts and therefore knowledge of them by contracting individuals is crucial.
The following is a list of the statutes of limitations for various civil wrongs:
- Negligence: 4 years
- Motor vehicle (including auto, truck or motorcycle) accident: 4 years
- Wrongful death: 2 years
- Professional, medical malpractice: 2 years
- Fraud: 4 years.
- Libel / Slander / Defamation: 2 years.
- Injury to Personal Property: 4 years.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in any type of accident, and an extensive period of time has passed since the alleged wrongful act, you should contact Board Certified Personal Injury attorney Bryan Caulfield. Bryan Caulfield has decades of experience in all personal injury cases. Call Bryan Caulfield today for a consultation.