A slip and fall accident can put you in the hospital for a long time. Sometimes clients wonder if they should file their case immediately after an accident or if they should wait until they reach maximum recovery. The State of Florida has a deadline of four years for filing lawsuits we must follow.
This deadline, called the statute of limitations, sets how long you have to file a claim for a slip and fall accident in Florida. Our lawyers will explain what that is and why states have deadlines for many cases in the first place.
The Statute of Limitations for Slip and Fall in Florida
According to Florida Statutes section 95.11(3)(a), all civil lawsuits based on a negligence claim must be filed within four years starting from the date of the accident. With rare exceptions, most personal injury claims will fall under this definition.
Negligence is the key legal concept behind slip and fall accidents. Negligence happens when someone does something that harms someone that a reasonable person would have avoided if they had a proper amount of care for the safety of others.
For a slip and fall situation, a reasonable landlord or business owner would remove or repair hazards that could cause someone to fall down and hurt themselves. If that’s not possible, they must be marked so people can avoid them.
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What Happens When the Statute of Limitations Has Expired?
If you try to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the defendant can mention this to the court, and your case will likely be dismissed. You will lose the right to seek damages for your slip and fall accident, no matter how injured you are or how much the defendant is at fault.
Settling out of court after the deadline will be almost impossible as well. Insurers will know that you’ll be unable to take them to court. They will have every advantage against you and your lawyer, and you will have no room to negotiate.
In all likelihood, you will get no compensation for your injuries if you breach the statute of limitations. Note that you only have to have your case started by this deadline. Once the court has the filing, your case can last as long as it needs to reach a resolution.
Are There Any Exceptions?
There are some exceptions that can extend the statute of limitations deadline, but they are only good to a certain limit. These are outlined in Florida Statutes 95.051. The ones that relate to a slip and fall accident are:
- The defendant fled the state
- The defendant used a false name unknown to you, so you could not serve them notice of the lawsuit
- The defendant concealed themselves in some way so you could not serve them notice of the lawsuit
- The plaintiff was mentally incapacitated before the injury happened
- A minor that has no one to sue on their behalf
Note that even with these exceptions, there is a maximum deadline of seven years to sue from the day of the accident. The statute is also explicit that disability does not stop the statute of limitations clock unless one of the above applies.
The statute of limitations is why lawyers insist you call as soon as possible after an accident. This gives them time to get evidence and build a stronger case before they have to worry about the statute of limitations. Waiting until the last minute gives your lawyer no time to prepare for trial or negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
Why does the Statute of Limitations Exist at All?
The statute of limitations has a long history going all the way back to Roman times. They exist because two parties in dispute can still have access to all the evidence, and so plaintiffs cannot hold old problems over a defendant forever.
The State of Florida believes that a four-year period is the most time that can pass before enough evidence gets lost and memories fade that justice cannot be decided fairly. The number of years is arbitrary, and some states have a much shorter statute of limitations.
The right to a speedy trial is also a right given to Americans as part of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The laws for statute of limitations is one way that right gets preserved.
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Aren’t Some Cases Solved Decades Later?
If you’ve heard of cases getting prosecuted decades after the fact, how do they work with the statute of limitations? First, slip and fall cases are civil trials, not criminal trials. Yet criminal trials also have a statute of limitations.
However, for crimes of the greatest magnitude, like murder, sometimes states decide that there should be no statute of limitations. If additional evidence comes to light for those cases, prosecutors can try to get a conviction even decades after the fact.
In the opinion of the courts, a slip and fall case isn’t as serious as these crimes. In fact, if you’re a family seeking a wrongful death claim after your loved one died in a slip and fall accident, you only have a two-year statute of limitations deadline.
Speak With Our Lawyers for More Information
If you have a personal injury or wrongful death claim, we urge you to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Beyond ensuring your slip and fall claim makes it to the court in time, a lawyer will help you make a strong case and protect you against insurance company tactics that may jeopardize your claim.
If you live in Florida and need representation, contact Viles & Beckman for a free consultation at the number on your screen, or contact us through the form on our contact page. Be sure to reach out before the statute of limitations has expired.