If you are involved in a car accident caused by a driver’s negligence, there are time limits within which you have to sue for compensation.
Different states have different times to sue. This article only applies to Florida car accident cases.
These are hard and fast deadlines. These deadlines are called statute of limitations.
A judge has no power to extend them. Below are time deadlines within which you must sue in Florida:
Table of contents
- Claim Against Driver or Driver’s Employer (4 years)
- Example (4 Years to Sue a Careless Driver in Florida)
- If an Uber Driver Caused Your Injury, How Long Do You Have to Sue?
- If You’re Working When the Accident Happened, How Long Do You Have to Sue the Careless Driver?
- Time Limit to Sue for an Uninsured Motorist Claim in Florida – 5 Years
- Time Limit to Sue for a Family Member Who is Killed in a Florida Car Accident
- How long do you have to sue if the driver who caused your accident dies?
- Claims against the State of Florida, or a county, city or municipality in Florida – 4 years to Sue, 3 Years for Notice
- Car Accident Cases Against the US government
- Example of Deadline for Car Accident Case Against Federal Government
Claim Against Driver or Driver’s Employer (4 years)
Thus, you have 4 years to sue most of the parties who may be liable for your Florida car accident. This time limit applies regardless of whether you’re occupying a car, motorcycle or you’re a pedestrian.
Example (4 Years to Sue a Careless Driver in Florida)
Joe (not real name) is on a motorcycle (in Florida) going straight. A truck, driving in the opposite direction, makes a left hand turn. They crash.
We settled this case for $445,000 within about 1 year of the accident. At the time of the settlement, I still had about 3 years to sue.
This same time limit applies if the careless driving was operating a car. You also have 4 years to sue the:
If an Uber Driver Caused Your Injury, How Long Do You Have to Sue?
The four (4) year time limit also applies to lawsuits against an Uber driver if his negligence caused your injury. This time limit also applies to Lyft accident cases.
If You’re Working When the Accident Happened, How Long Do You Have to Sue the Careless Driver?
Time Limit to Sue for an Uninsured Motorist Claim in Florida – 5 Years
Learn about the typical 5 year deadline to sue for uninsured motorist (UM) benefits in a Florida auto accident.
Warning! The time limit may be different if you’re an out of state resident who is hurt in a Florida car accident.
Time Limit to Sue for a Family Member Who is Killed in a Florida Car Accident
If someone dies due to someone’s else’s careless, it is called a wrongful death.
In Florida, there are essentially two statutes of limitations that affect wrongful death cases. The general statute of limitations that applies to the majority of wrongful death car accident cases provides that an lawsuit for wrongful death must be filed within two years after the cause of action starts. Fla. Stat 95.11(4)(d).
However, the Florida Wrongful Death Act provides that a wrongful death action must be based on a car accident that would have entitled the decedent to recover damages if death had not happened. Florida Stat. 768.19.
(Decedent is the person who was killed.) Most often, this means that you can only have a wrongful death claim if someone else was negligent.
As a result, if the decedent dies after expiration of the time period contained in the statute of limitations applicable to the car accident and a lawsuit has not been filed before the death, then any wrongful death action based upon that negligence is not allowed. Ash v. Stella, 457 So. 2d 1377 (Fla. 1984).
If the decedent dies within the time period provided in the statute of limitations applicable to the car accident, the wrongful death lawsuit will be allowed so long as it is filed within the two year statute of limitations that apply to wrongful death lawsuits. Pait v. Ford Motor Co., 515 So. 2d 1278 (Fla. 1987).
Thus, you (or your attorney) need to look at the statute of limitations that applies to the car accident to see if the death occurred during that applicable time period. If death happened within that time limit, then the statute of limitations applicable to the wrongful death lawsuit must be complied with.
One Florida appeals court has held that the 5 year time period applies to filing a wrongful death lawsuit for uninsured motorist insurance benefits. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co. v. Mason, 210 So.2d 474
The loss of a loved one is tragic. This is especially true when the death is due to wrongful death . However, you don’t want to miss the wrongful death deadline and forever lose your claim. This is especially true when the settlement value of wrongful death cases is often large. Check out:
- Settlements for a child whose parent is killed due to negligence
- Settlements for a parent whose child is killed due to negligence
- Settlements for someone whose spouse (husband or wife) is killed due to negligence
How long do you have to sue if the driver who caused your accident dies?
If the at fault driver dies in or after the accident, you may only have two years to sue his estate from the date of his death. This goes against the general rule that you have four (4) years to sue the at fault driver.
Whether you’ll have two years to sue if the at fault driver dies will likely depend upon where you can sue.
If you can sue in a county that is part of Florida’s 4th DCA, you may still have four years to sue the at fault driver’s estate. Pezzi v. Brown, 697 So. 2d 883 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997) The 4th DCA includes Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties.
Florida’s 3rd DCA seems to also apply the 4 year time limit if the at fault driver dies. IN RE: Estate of Arroyo, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 3rd Dist. 2017. The 3rd DCA includes Miami-Dade and Monroe County.
The bad news?
If your lawsuit must me brought in a county that is part of Florida’s First DCA, then you have two years to sue the other’s driver’s estate after he or she dies. Buettner v. Cellular One, Inc., 700 So. 2d 48 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1997)
Florida’s 1st DCA is made up of the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Nassau, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Wakulla, Walton and Washington.
The worst part about this two year time limit?
It applies even if you have no idea that the other driver died. And the two year time limit also applies against the owner of the vehicle and the driver’s employer. It may be a good idea to periodically monitor the at fault driver’s social media accounts (if they are public) to be sure that he or she is still alive.
There are other scenarios below when you only have two years to sue the at fault driver or owner of the car. So keep reading.
Claims against the State of Florida, or a county, city or municipality in Florida – 4 years to Sue, 3 Years for Notice
If you’re injured in Florida by the negligence of a driver who is in the course and scope of his employment for the State of Florida, or a county, city or municipality in Florida, then you have four (4) years to sue.
However, you must send a notice of claim to the proper governmental bodies within three (3) years.
Warning: If you don’t send a notice of claim to the proper governmental bodies within 3 years, then the government will ask the court to dismiss your case. The court will dismiss it forever. This notice has specific requirements.
Tip: If a government employee caused your car accident, you still have 5 years to make an uninsured motorist claim.
Examples of vehicular accidents where a city, municipality, or the State of Florida’s negligence may cause your injury are:
- Miami-Dade county bus hits you
- Coral Gables trolley hits you
- City of Miami fire rescue truck hits you
- Broward County Sheriff’s police car hits you
Car Accident Cases Against the US government
If a Federal government employee’s negligence caused your injury, then the government entity must receive the SF 95 Claim Form within 2 years of the date of the occurrence of the injury.
Notice isn’t valid if you send the claim form within 2 years, but it is not received by the agency within 2 years.
You have to wait to sue until the proper agency denies the claim or, if 6 months go by and they don’t reject it, this acts as a denial. You may then sue.
Once the claim is denied or 6 months go by from the date that the government body is placed on notice, you have 6 months to file a lawsuit.
Some examples of car accident cases that you can have against the US government are if a:
- US Customs and Border Patrol
- US Postal Truck hits you
You still have 5 years to make an uninsured motorist claim.
Example of Deadline for Car Accident Case Against Federal Government
Mike (not real name) was standing next to his car. A driver is working for the US Customs and Border Patrol (Department of Homeland Security).
The driver crashes into Mike. He fractures his tibia (lower leg bone). Mike has to 2 years to sue the US government.
We immediately completed the Form 95 (Statement of Claim) and sent it to the proper parties. After 6 months, the Department of Homeland Security hadn’t made us an offer.
We then sued the US. I settled the case against all parties for $325,000.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated.