In criminal cases, statutes of limitations have been established to ensure that prosecutions are based on evidence that has not faded or deteriorated with time. Most states enforce statutes of limitations for most crimes except violent felonies and homicides.
When the statute of limitations expires in a criminal matter, if a charge has not been filed by a prosecutor, it’s automatically the conclusion of the case, and no charges may be filed beyond that date.
Statutes of limitations are also applied in civil cases. In the state of Florida, for example, if you intend to file a personal injury lawsuit because you were injured accidentally by another person’s negligence, a statute of limitations restricts the amount of time that you have to take legal action.
Under Florida law, most injury victims in most cases have four years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury lawsuit, but the law also spells out several exceptions to the four-year limit.
WHAT CASES ARE EXCEPTIONS TO FLORIDA’S FOUR-YEAR TIME LIMIT?
For instance, in cases where an injury is not immediately apparent or detectable, the four-year period for filing a lawsuit may “begin ticking” on the date when the injury is “discovered” rather than the actual date of the accident that caused the injury.
A traumatic brain injury, for example, may escape detection at first but may then emerge weeks later as a dangerous medical condition.
In medical malpractice cases in Florida, the statute of limitations is only two years. And if the negligent party alleged to be responsible for an injury or injuries is a government agency or a government employee, the statute of limitations in Florida is three years.
Of course, every case is different, and that’s why a victim of negligence in Florida needs the sound legal advice that a skilled Tampa personal injury attorney can provide.
If you were injured by negligence in Florida at any time in the last several years, you may need to take legal action at once. In other cases, your attorney may be able to qualify you for an exception or an extension of the statutory deadline.
And if you’ve been injured recently – or if you are a victim of negligence in the future – arrange to speak at once with a personal injury lawyer who can clearly and precisely explain your legal rights and options.
WHY ARE STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS ESTABLISHED?
Lawmakers establish statutes of limitations for a number of reasons. The most important reason is to maintain the integrity of the evidence and the eyewitness testimony in a criminal or civil case.
Over a period of years, evidence can deteriorate or disappear, and memories can also fade. However, if you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence in Florida, you should not wait two, three, or four years, and then try to file a lawsuit at the last minute.
Instead, after an injury caused by another person’s negligence, put a qualified Tampa personal injury attorney to work for you as soon as you have obtained a medical examination.
Putting an experienced attorney on the case as quickly as possible tells the other side’s insurance company and attorney (or attorneys) that you won’t be tricked or intimidated into accepting a settlement that’s inadequate to cover your medical expenses and lost wages.
A good Florida personal injury lawyer will offer you candid, impartial advice based on years of personal injury experience. Most personal injury cases don’t actually become courtroom trials.
In more than nine out of ten cases, the attorneys negotiate an out-of-court settlement that is mutually acceptable to all parties.
Merely retaining legal counsel is sometimes all it takes to make an insurance company treat you fairly and meet its responsibility.
WHAT IS THE TIME LIMIT IF YOUR CLAIM IS AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT?
Let’s say, for example, that you trip and fall on curled-up carpeting or a cracked and broken sidewalk at your local city hall or public library, or that your child is injured on playground equipment that’s been poorly maintained at a city or county park.
If your injury claim names the state or any of its “agencies and subdivisions,” acquiring compensation will be a more complicated process than filing a claim against a private individual or business.
If you are injured by the negligence of a government agency or employee in Florida, you must notify the agency that you intend to name in your claim – as well as the Florida Department of Financial Services – in writing and within three years of the actual date of the accident and injury.
Upon receiving your notification, the agency has 180 days to conduct its own investigation of the accident, and no lawsuit can be filed until the investigation is completed or 180 days have passed, whichever comes first. You must send your notification by U.S. Mail; an emailed notice will not meet the notification requirement.
If you’ve been injured by the negligence of a government agency or employee in Florida, you will need an attorney who is familiar with the procedure for suing the government – someone who routinely fights on behalf of the victims of negligence in this state.
A Tampa personal injury attorney can review the details of your claim, gather and examine evidence on your behalf, question witnesses, and make sure that all of your filings and paperwork are accurate, complete, and meet all of the legal deadlines.
If your claim against a government agency in Florida is denied, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within three years of the actual date of the injury.
However, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of the allegedly wrongful death. The rules are slightly different for criminal offenders housed by the Florida Department of Corrections.
They have one year to provide and send a written notice of a claim and three years to file an injury lawsuit.
If you are injured by negligence in Florida, and you need reimbursement for medical bills and lost wages, it’s important to understand that the details of the accident and injury will determine the statute of limitations in your own case.
Exceptions to – and extensions of – statutory deadlines are determined on a case-by-case basis.
An experienced Tampa personal injury attorney can explain your rights and options as an injury victim, guide you through the legal system, and fight aggressively for the compensation and justice you need and deserve.