How Long Should I Wait to File a Claim After a Car Accident?
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A car accident, no matter how minor, is a traumatic experience that leaves you shaken. Immediately after the accident, the shock may make it difficult to know what to do next. Often, the initial shock can mask serious injuries that seem like minor ones. Even if you think your injuries are minor, it is important to seek medical treatment immediately.

As you begin to recover, you may find you need more care than you realized you would, and your medical bills and lost wages may begin to add up to a significant sum. If this sounds like your situation, contact a lawyer for car accident injury to help you get the compensation your deserve.

Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Injury Claim

As you begin to investigate whether or not you want to file a car accident injury claim, you may come across Florida's car accident statute of limitations. If you are not familiar with legal terms, you may wonder what this means. Or, you may have heard the term before but not realized it also applies to car accidents.

A statute of limitations is a law set by the state that limits how long after a car accident you can claim injury or damages by filing a lawsuit. Each state has its own statute of limitations or number of years you have to file. The statute of limitations also takes into consideration the kind of loss or harm that you suffered. In Florida, the length of the statute of limitations in a car accident depends on whether the accident resulted in injury or death.

The four-year statute of limitations applied to personal injury cases such as:

  • Car drivers, including uninsured motorists
  • Truck drivers
  • Drivers using a rental car
  • Lyft or Uber drivers

If the crash resulted in an injury, your suit must be filed within four years of the accident's date. The same statute of limitations applies to a lawsuit over damage to or loss of your vehicle. But if someone died in the accident and their family wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they have two years from the date of a person's death to file their case.

These dates are important because the court will most likely refuse to consider your case if you miss your filing date.

What Is the Statute of Repose in Florida?

In addition to the statute of limitations, the statute of repose also puts a time limit on how long after an accident you have to claim injury. This statute favors the defendant by putting a definite limit on how long you have to take legal action. A statute of repose may set the clock on how long you have to file your case prior to the accident.

In Florida, a statute of repose generally doesn't apply to car accident claims. The exception to this is when a product liability claim is part of the car accident claim. This is because, in Florida, defective product claims are subject to both the statute of limitations and the statute of repose.

Here is where the time limit gets a little tricky. In Florida, you may not sue for product liability, even wrongful death, if the damages were caused by a product that has an expected useful life of 10 years or less if the injury happened over 12 years after the product was delivered to its first purchaser. That means if the product was 13-years old and it caused an injury, the injured party cannot sue, even if that product was defective in a way that caused the accident.

In addition, the statute of repose also states that the first purchaser must not have been leasing or selling the defective product as a component part. This provision prevents car manufacturers from suing car parts companies if the parts they supplied were defective.

Extension for Personal Injury Claim?

As mentioned, if you miss the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit set by the statute of limitations, the chances of your suit going forward are slim. However, in a few rare exceptions, you may be able to apply for an extension to the deadline.

Florida statute outlines several scenarios that might delay or stop the statute of limitations clock after it has started. In these scenarios, you may see an extension beyond the four-year deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Below are some examples of when the court may agree to extend the timeline for filing beyond the standard four years for filing a personal injury lawsuit.

  • The injured person has been declared legally incapacitated when the accident occurred. For instance, if the injured person was subject to a permanent or temporary mental illness, they may be granted an extension. However, this extension is not open-ended, the lawsuit must be filed within seven years of the accident.
  • The person who allegedly caused the accident that injured you has left the state of Florida after the accident occurred and before your lawyer could file the lawsuit.
  • The defendant took steps to hide in the state of Florida and changed their identity or name to prevent the lawsuit and summons from being served.

This is not a complete list, but they are the most common reasons. Talk to a personal injury lawyer for more details of other exceptions to Florida's statute of limitations.

Even if you are already in settlement talks with the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident in which you were injured, and you don't think you will be filing a lawsuit to be compensated for your injury and lost wages, it's important to be aware of the statute of limitations for your case.

If you delay, for whatever reason, in getting the insurance claim process started immediately after your accident, four years can creep up on you. You may not think your injuries are that bad and don't think you need to file a claim. However, car accident injuries often worsen over time, so you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible so you don't miss this important deadline.

Or, if the other side drags their heels, you can use the suit as leverage to hurry them along, and if needed, file your suit in time. You always want to keep the option of taking your case to court open.

When to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

The best time to contact a car accident lawyer is as soon as possible after your accident, and after you've sought medical care. Don't put off seeking medical care, as your delay could affect your case. If you have questions about the statute of limitations and how it may apply to your situation, it's time to speak with an attorney. Especially if you have, or think you may have, already missed the deadline, or it is fast approaching. Don't delay, contact LJ Law Group right away. Our experienced team will fight aggressively and work tirelessly to get you the settlement you deserve.