What Is the Difference Between the Statute of Limitations & the Statute of Repose in Florida?
Every state has set deadlines for taking legal action in a personal injury claim. A person can only file a lawsuit from the date of an accident or injury until a certain amount of years have passed. This is called a statute of limitations. A statute of repose is a very similar type of restriction, but typically comes with stricter limits.
It’s up to you to know your statute of limitations and statute of repose deadlines and take swift action to protect your claim following an accident. Our Florida personal injury attorneys will guide you through how these actions can affect your personal injury case.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit against the individual or entity who is at fault for your accident. Under Florida's statute of limitations for personal injury cases, you have four years from the date of the accident to file your case. Extensions are possible if you don’t “discover” you have sustained incident-related injuries until much later. If you are curious about other exceptions, talk to an attorney for details.
If you don’t settle your claim with an insurance company or file a lawsuit against the person or business at fault before the statute expires, you’ll lose the right to pursue any compensation for your injuries. Insurance companies are under no obligation to help you settle your claim before the deadline. They know if you haven’t sued the person or entity they insure before the statute expires, they win.
What Is a Statute of Repose?
A statute of repose is similar to a statute of limitations, but there are certain crucial differences. A statute of repose also dictates how much time a person has to pursue certain legal rights following an event such as an accident or crime, but the terms are much stricter.
A statute or repose is designed to bar legal action after a specific set date, no matter when the claimed injury or defect is “discovered.” This means extensions and exceptions are highly unlikely.
However, there are rare instances in which extensions are allowed. In 2018, changes were made to Florida Statute § 95.11(3)(c) regarding construction statutes of repose. The amendment made it possible for contractors and developers to be sued for construction defects more than ten years after the completion of the project. Prior to this change the ten-year deadline had been immovable; now, a one-year extension is allowed under certain circumstances.
To put the differences between the two in clearer terms, let’s continue to look at construction accidents and defects as an example:
- Florida’s statute of limitations allows a claimant four years to bring a lawsuit after a project is completed or upon discovery of any latent defects.
- Florida’s statute of repose allows ten years (or more, thanks to the 2018 amendment) following the completion of a project to file a claim, regardless of when the defect was discovered.
How Can These Two Actions Impact Your Personal Injury Case?
When filing any personal injury claim, it is always best to start as soon as possible following your accident. Evidence that is fresh is much easier to collect and document than old evidence. Your memory will also be more reliable immediately after an accident and the opposing insurance company less involved. You’ll also want to retain a lawyer as quickly as you can. The sooner we can start investigating your claim and building your case, the stronger it will be.
Here are some steps to take following your accident or injury if you want to file a personal injury lawsuit:
- Seek medical attention right away so there’s a record of your injuries
- Document important information such as the at-fault entity’s insurance information and witnesses’ contact information
- Don’t say anything to or sign anything from an insurance company
- Keep a file with any other notes, observations, and information that might help your case
- Contact a lawyer
The quicker you act and the more through your documentation, the less you have to concern yourself with statutes of limitations and repose. Personal injury claims can take months if not years to settle, so time is of the essence.
Have you recently been in an accident and are looking to file a personal injury claim? Or do you have a question about the statutes of limitations and repose? Contact The Pittman Firm, P.A. today at (850) 764-0383 or message us online. We’ve been handling personal injury cases in and around Florida for over 30 years.