Following a car accident in Florida, things are going to be stressful: dealing with medical treatments, negotiating medical bills, and making plans for what to do about your job, for example. You may not have the ability to return to work immediately, which may leave you dealing with financial challenges, too.
With everything you have on your plate these days, it can be easy to let things slip. You may even look up and suddenly realize that a year or more has passed since your car accident, and you have not yet filed a personal injury claim.
It happens, but the real question is it too late to file an injury claim for a car accident in Florida after that much time has passed?
Understanding the Statute of Limitations Following Florida Car Accidents
Florida law acknowledges how difficult it can be to find time to manage everything related to your car accident. Unlike many states, which may have a shorter statute of limitations following a car accident, Florida law allows four years after the accident for you to file a personal injury claim.
In general, the statute of limitations determines how long you have to pursue legal action: in the case of a personal injury claim, how long after the accident you have to begin pursuit of that claim. After the statute of limitations runs out, you can no longer file a claim for any injuries you sustained as a result of your accident.
The Florida Statute of Limitations and Wrongful Death Claims After a Car Accident
While Florida law allows you four years after the accident to file a wrongful death claim, it does allow you just two years to file a wrongful death claim if someone dies in a car accident due to the negligence of another party. If you lost a loved one in a car accident, that means you will need to start proceedings on your claim sooner than if you need to pursue compensation in a personal injury claim.
What Happens if More Than Four Years Has Passed?
More than four years have passed since your car accident. For whatever reason, you did not have time to file a personal injury claim before time ran out. Maybe you did not recognize the severity of your injuries. Perhaps you did not realize that you had grounds for a personal injury claim based on the circumstances that led to your car accident. You might even have forgotten.
If more than four years have passed since your accident, the courts will typically refuse to hear your claim. The statute of limitations has run out, and you no longer have the right to pursue compensation for those injuries. However, in some cases, your car accident claim may fall into an exemption or exception. You may still have the right to file a personal injury claim if:
Your accident involved a minor child
Under Florida law, the statute of limitations cannot prevent you from filing a personal injury claim for a minor child as long as you file the claim on or before the child’s eighth birthday. You may, for example, have a child who suffered severe injuries in a car accident, and whose injuries did not come to light until well after the initial accident. You may not even know how some injuries, including traumatic brain injury, may impact your child long-term following the accident. As a result, you have until your child’s eighth birthday to file a personal injury claim.
You did not discover your injuries until well after the initial accident
In some cases, you may not realize the full extent of your injuries until well after the initial accident, especially if you did not seek medical attention immediately following the accident. Later, scar tissue may build up, causing more substantial problems and leading you to seek medical attention. In some cases, you may still have grounds to file a personal injury claim after your auto accident, even if the statute of limitations has passed.
If you think you may have grounds for a personal injury claim, even if you are outside the statute of limitations, discuss your claim with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Often, a lawyer can help you better understand your right to compensation and the time you have to file a personal injury claim. A lawyer can also help identify any exceptions that may give you more time to file a personal injury claim after your accident.
How Soon After Your Accident Should You File Your Claim?
Florida law allows you to file your claim at any point within four years after a car accident. That does not necessarily mean, however, that you should wait for four years to file a personal injury claim. First and foremost, keep in mind that you may need the funds from that claim in your hands as soon as possible. You may have medical bills to pay, other financial issues to worry about, and a life to rebuild following severe injuries from your car accident. Once you begin the process of filing your claim, you may still have months to wait before you have the funds you need in hand.
Contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon after your accident as possible
Many personal injury attorneys will come to you after an accident, whether that means connecting with you through a video call or meeting with you in a place you can comfortably reach in spite of your injuries and limitations. You may not necessarily need to contact a personal injury attorney from the emergency room, but you should certainly contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Once you contact an attorney, your case review can begin. Your attorney can go over the information from your accident and determine whether you have grounds for a personal injury claim as well as what information or evidence you may need to file your claim. Often, your attorney may find that you need additional evidence to file your claim: proof that the other driver caused your accident, for example, or proof that another party may have contributed to your injuries.
In some cases, your attorney may decide to launch an investigation into your claim. Truck accident claims, for example, often prove more complicated and take longer to settle than personal injury claims involving only passenger vehicles, since your attorney may need to investigate the trucking company as well as the truck driver himself. The sooner that investigation begins, the sooner you may move forward with your personal injury claim. Following many auto accidents, it is also easier to find evidence soon after the accident. Witness memories of the accident may fade quickly. Any evidence from the scene may disappear with time, especially if your accident involved poor maintenance of a road or a seasonal feature that blocked visibility.
How soon will an attorney advise filing your claim?
Your attorney may advise moving forward with your personal injury claim immediately, especially if the accident was relatively straightforward or you suffered comparatively minor injuries. On the other hand, sometimes, your personal injury attorney may advise waiting.
Your attorney may want to make sure that he has all relevant information before moving forward with the claim so that you can claim the full compensation you deserve. Sometimes, that information may include the full extent of your medical bills and your prognosis.
In most personal injury claims, your medical bills will form the foundation of the compensation you will receive. Sometimes, your doctors may let you know that you have a relatively straightforward case. They can easily estimate what your future medical expenses will look like and provide you with a reasonable idea of what life after your injuries will look like.
In other cases, however, you may need to progress through your recovery before your doctors can give you a solid assessment of how much you will likely recover. If you suffered traumatic brain injury or back and neck injuries, including spinal cord damage, your doctor may recommend waiting six months or more after your accident before offering a solid assessment of your eventual recovery. Many types of injuries, including severe burns, may also have a high risk of complication, which can cause additional medical bills as well as greater overall suffering. Your attorney may advise waiting until you have a better idea of what your recovery will look like and how much your medical bills will cost before filing your personal injury claim.
Do You Need an Attorney After a Florida Car Accident?
If you suffered injuries in a Florida car accident, an attorney can help you learn more about how much compensation you deserve and when you should file a personal injury claim. Do you think the statute of limitations may have run out after your accident? Do you have questions about your right to compensation? Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Often, personal injury attorneys will start with a free consultation to better understand your claim. If you suffered injuries in a Florida car accident, contact Herman Wells to learn more about your rights.