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What to know about Statutes of Limitations

Attorneys evaluate many things when a potential new client calls.  What injuries were sustained in the accident? What are the events surrounding the accident? Who were the parties that were present at the time of the accident? One of the most important questions attorneys ask is “where will this case be filed” and “what is the deadline to file this case?”

Some of these considerations are subjective and are left to each attorney to decide. Is there enough liability to make a valid case? Are there limited damages? Do they practice in the county where your accident occurred?

With so many subjective considerations to consider, it’s important to know one thing is not: the deadlines to file a case.

What are Statutes of Limitations?

“Statutes of Limitations” are the laws of each state that provide the time for you to file a lawsuit with the court. They can be changed by legislature and are often a point of contention between political parties. Not only do they differ by state, they can differ based on the cause of action you need to sue on.

It is important for you and your attorney to know when the statutes of limitation start to run in order to be able to calculate the last day they can file your case. Generally, the statute of limitation begins to accrue when there was an “invasion” of legal rights or plaintiff “put on notice of his right of action.” Smith v. Continental Ins. Co., 326 So. 2d 189, 191 (2d DCA 1976). This may mean on the date when the harm occurred; the date of the accident, the date of the surgery or the date on the contract.

Statutes of Limitations by case type

  • Negligence (lawsuits involving auto accidents, premises liability and wrongful death)
    • 2 years
  • Negligence (for injuries caused by a public entity)
    • 2 years
  • Medical malpractice
    • 2 years
  • Breach of contract
    • 5 years
  • Product liability
    • 4 years (2 years with a wrongful death claim)
  • Unpaid property taxes
    • 5 years
  • Recovery of a judgment
    • 20 years
  • First-degree misdemeanor
    • 2 years
  • Second-degree misdemeanor
    • 1 year

Exceptions to Statutes of Limitations

There can be exceptions to these time periods. Many of the statutes that provide these timelines provide situations that may extend the statute of limitations. There are some types of cases that can be delayed until the harm is “discovered” because the plaintiff would not have known about the harm sooner. The harm may not be immediately noticeable such as when medical devices start to erode within the body, or when concrete is poured too thin and water seeps into it, causing rust on rebar and a crumbling structure. In circumstances like these, there may be additional statutes that extend the statute further and begins to run when the harm was discovered.

In some circumstances, the statute timing is “tolled” or ceased for a period of time. For example, medical malpractice cases require notice to be provided to all prospective defendants. During the presuit period, the statute of limitations is tolled. In construction defect cases, presuit requirements can also toll the statute of limitations. However, if there are presuit requirements such as notice like the medical malpractice statute, require that presuit begin within the allotted time period and may not delay the statute of limitations.

Making sense of Statutes of Limitations

Because there can be inconsistencies and complications with the statute of limitations, it is important to call an attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Romano Law Group may be able to help you understand the statute of limitations for your case and make the best recommendations for your case. We look forward to assisting you today.

Authored by Marjorie Levine, Esq.

Attorney Marjorie Levine