Statute of Limitations
In personal injury lawsuits and other civil suits, a statute of limitations is a time limit to initiate legal action. Each state has its own statute of limitations.
For example, those filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida typically have four years. Here are some specific personal injury cases that have different time limits in Florida:
- medical malpractice—two years
- wrongful death—two years
- product liability—two years for wrongful death, four years for personal injury
Civil actions are in place to give injured parties the opportunity to recover damages; however, as time proceeds, details get foggy, making it more difficult to have a fair trial. Statutes of limitations encourage injured parties to come forward as soon as possible, so there is a fair trial with accurate facts and evidence.
Extending the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Lawsuits
In most cases, the statute of limitations period starts from the date of accident or injury. But states may make exceptions. For example, Florida law will make exceptions, which include:
- If the defendant left the state after the date of injury and before the lawsuit was filed, the statute of limitation clock will be paused until the defendant returns to Florida.
- The defendant used a false name to avoid being summoned, resulting in an extension until the defendant’s true identity is known.
- The victim suffered catastrophic injuries that made it impossible to take legal action. A victim who goes into a coma is the most common example. In these cases, the court gives victims seven years to initiate action after the offense or act that is being prosecuted.
Delayed Discovery in Personal Injury Lawsuits
Delayed discovery is the notion that the clock on the statute of limitations begins from the date of discovery of an injury. Here are some scenarios where the statute of limitations might be extended to the time of discovery:
- In medical malpractice lawsuits, the statute of limitations may start at the time of discovery, or when an injury should have been discovered with due diligence.
- If a medical professional or healthcare facility commits fraud, conceals, or intentionally misrepresents facts that prevent the discovery of an injury, the clock may start at the time of discovery.
- The statute of limitations may be different for cases involving product liability.
What If the Statute of Limitations Runs Out?
If you try to initiate legal action after the statute of limitations has run out, the court will most likely dismiss the case. In very rare and extenuating circumstances, the court might hear the case, but it is highly unlikely unless it is one of the aforementioned exceptions. When the court dismisses your case, you can no longer seek damages for your injuries regardless of the strength of your claim against the defendant.
This is why it is so important to consult an attorney as soon as possible after an injury to understand the legal process for your particular situation.
If an elder that you love has been abused or neglected in a nursing home, he or she might be entitled to compensation. Call a lawyer at 1-800-516-4783 for a free, confidential consultation to discuss the details of your case.
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