Florida is a no-fault state. It is one of a handful of states that require each vehicle owner to purchase their own insurance. This insurance is called PIP (personal injury protection) insurance. Most accident victims file a claim under their own insurance first before taking any other steps.
Florida’s 14-Day Accident Rule
PIP claims have their own procedures, and it is important to abide by them. For example, Florida has a 14-day rule for those who want to file a claim under their own PIP (personal injury protection) insurance. Under the 14-day rule, a person must seek medical attention within 14 days of the date of the car accident in order to file a claim under their own PIP coverage.
Because Florida is a no-fault state, accident victims must file under their own insurance first regardless of who is at fault. Then, if a person’s PIP coverage is insufficient to cover all of their personal injuries, the victim may file suit against the other party at fault. This usually happens only in situations where a person’s injuries are severe. An accident victim may file directly against a culpable party’s insurance for any property damages suffered in the accident.
Like all states, Florida has a period of limitations for the filing of a lawsuit arising from a car accident. Any lawsuit filed as a result of a car accident must be filed within four years of the date of the accident, or the claimant will be barred from pursuing an action in court based on that claim. This is called a statute of limitations. It is meant to bar “stale” claims from court.
The Claims Period
Most automobile accident cases are resolved in the claims period. Every claim arising from an accident is assigned to an adjuster. An insurance company has an obligation to try to resolve the claim. However, insurance companies hate to pay out on claims if they think they can avoid it. There is always some conflict of interest inherent in the relationship between a claimant and an adjuster. It is incumbent upon the claimant to file their claim in a timely fashion with their PIP insurance company. That is one reason why it is helpful to have an attorney represent the claimant during this period.
An experienced Miami personal injury lawyer knows how adjusters work and knows how to effectively negotiate a settlement with an adjuster that benefits their client. An attorney also keeps their eye on the expiration of the claims period.
An attorney works with their client to either
(a) resolve the claim before the statute of limitations expires, or
(b) file a lawsuit before it expires to allow their client to continue to pursue their claim against the other party involved in the accident.
A Lawsuit Must Be Filed Before the Statute of Limitations Expires
In Florida, the statute of limitations is four years. That means that any lawsuit must be filed within four years of the date of the accident. If it is filed even one day late, the case will be dismissed, and the victim will receive nothing for their injuries and damages outside of the PIP claim.
During a lawsuit, the court manages the case, moving it toward resolution or trial. During this time period, discovery takes place. Discovery is a formal process meant to help both sides in a lawsuit understand what evidence and witnesses will be presented at trial.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
There are some notable exceptions to the four-year limitations period. These situations are rare, but because they do occur, sometimes a court will extend the limitations period.
For example, a court may extend or “toll” the limitations period when the defendant cannot be found. This may happen when a defendant purposely hides so that he or she cannot be sued. A court may also extend the period of limitations when the defendant purposely gave false identifying information at the scene of the accident.
Finally, a court can extend the limitations period to seven years when a car accident victim suffers catastrophic injuries. In these cases, a victim may be hospitalized for a protracted period of time or may be hospitalized repeatedly for multiple periods of treatment or surgery.
There are accident cases in which an injury is not readily apparent. When a person suffers a traumatic brain injury, the injury may not be diagnosed for months after the accident. In such a case, the court may use the date the injury is discovered to begin the limitations period rather than the date of the accident.
Call an Attorney to Get a Jump Start On Your Case
Florida law will govern a car accident victim’s ability and timeline regarding filing a lawsuit and a PIP claim. But the law is complex, especially when looking at the issue regarding the tolling of the limitations period. Bring your concerns and questions regarding the statute of limitations and how it may apply to your case to an experienced personal injury attorney. It is important to understand the law and how it may apply to you.