Deadlines are very important in the world of personal injury law. Florida legislation imposes deadlines (called statutes of limitations) to set a maximum time limit after an accident within which a party can initiate legal proceedings.
Time limits on claims are in place to ensure a fair trial and to encourage resolution within a reasonable amount of time. Statutes of limitations vary state to state. Here’s how long you have to file truck accident claims in Florida.
The Importance of Meeting Claim Deadlines
Florida courtrooms take statutes of limitations seriously. When the specified time period passes, the courts will no longer allow a claimant to file. This means you lose the opportunity to ever bring your truck accident claim in front of a judge or jury.
If the courts do allow you to file, the odds are high that the courts will later dismiss your claim when the defense proves that you filed after the statutory limitation period. Missing your deadline can mean zero compensation for your accident-related medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages – even if you had an otherwise strong case.
Time Limits for Filing in Florida
There are different statutes of limitations in place depending on the type of claim you wish to file. Florida has longer time limits on personal injury claims than many other states. To file a personal injury claim (this would be the category for a truck accident claim unless the accident resulted in wrongful death), you must do so within four years from the date of the accident.
Florida Statutes Section 95.11 outlines this deadline and others. Should you discover your injuries after the date of the accident, the clock doesn’t start ticking until the date of discovery.
If a loved one dies in a truck accident, your claim would take the form of a wrongful death lawsuit. In Florida, only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file this type of claim. The representative files on behalf of all beneficiaries and surviving family members, such as the deceased person’s spouse, children, and parents.
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in Florida is two years from the date of death. Claims on the basis of injury to personal property (not personal injuries) also have four years from the date of the accident.
Claims Against the Government
Some truck accident claims name a government agency as the defendant. This could be the case if your truck accident involved a government employee, government vehicle, or if a governmental body such as the city maintenance crew contributed to your crash.
For example: Suppose a large truck suffered a tire blowout because of a pothole and smashed into your vehicle. If you can prove that the city in charge of roadway maintenance should have known about the pothole yet did nothing to fix it, you could sue the city government for negligence.
If your claim names a government entity as one of the defendants, your deadline for filing is shorter. You have three years from the date of the truck accident to send a notice of the claim, in writing, to the state agency involved in the claim.
The notice should describe the details of the accident, along with the losses you’re claiming. Once you file this notice, you must then wait until a 180-day investigation period passes before you can file your lawsuit – unless the agency formally denies your claim, at which point you can immediately move on to file with the civil courts.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are rare exceptions when the courts may “toll,” or extend, the deadline to file a truck accident claim. This might be the case if the defendant moves out of the state of Florida and is concealed to prevent the process of the claim being served upon him or her. If a claimant is mentally incapacitated or incompetent, the courts may also pause the deadline, as long as the mental incapacity existed prior to the truck accident.
Regardless of the claimant’s mental state, Florida imposes a hard deadline of seven years from the date of injury on personal injury actions. Don’t assume you’re out of luck if four years have already passed since the date of your truck accident. Talk to a lawyer before giving up. An attorney can help you understand your specific time limits for filing truck accident claims.
Don’t Miss Your Deadline: Talk to an Attorney ASAP
The deadline to file truck accident claims is a key piece of information to keep in mind during the personal injury action process. Missing your deadline can weaken your claim and even take away your right to compensation. Each case is unique – some deadlines may not apply in your specific situation.
The sooner you talk to a lawyer about your crash, the better you can heed filing deadlines and other important claims rules, and the sooner you can secure financial recovery.
To learn more about truck accidents, read our A Comprehensive Guide for Truck Accident Victims.