Discovery Rule: Has the Statute Run?

There are many rules that govern how lawsuits proceed in court. The location of your accident, the value of your damages, and the identity of the defendant all have major implications on your lawsuit. One of the most important rules revolves around the length of time you have to file your claim.

Some lawsuits are barred by the “statute of limitations.” So, a common question in personal injury cases is: “has the statute run?” 

What is a Statute of Limitations?

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is the time limit within which you must file a lawsuit after an accident or injury. Each state has its own statutes of limitations for personal injury cases. 

Statutes of limitations encourage people to file their claims within a reasonable time. This allows the court to avoid hearing old claims and prevents parties from worrying about claims decades after an accident. Moreover, delays in cases can result in lost or destroyed evidence, faded memories, and unfair results.

Are There Different Statutes of Limitations for Different Types of Cases?

Yes. Statutes of limitations vary across states and across case types. 

In the state of Florida, the following statutes of limitations are in effect:

  • Negligence and personal injury: 2 years
  • Personal property damage: 4 years
  • Product liability: 2 or 4 years, depending on the facts of the case
  • Medical Malpractice: 2 years
  • Wrongful death: 2 years from the date of death

Note that the statute of limitations for Florida cases based on negligence used to be four years. However, the state revised its law on March 24, 2023. Therefore, if your accident or personal injury arose before that date, you may have four years to file. If your accident occurred after 3/24/23, you will be subject to the updated two-year deadline.

Typically, the statute of limitations starts to run on the date of your accident. If you do not bring your case within the time limits, you will likely be barred from bringing a claim unless an exception applies. One major exception is known as the delayed discovery rule.

What is the Delayed Discovery Rule?

Normally, the statute of limitations starts on the day that an accident or harm occurred. In some cases, a victim of an accident does not feel or see the effects of the accident until sometime later. This period can even be months or years in certain cases.

Their delayed discovery of their injury could result in a truncated timeline to file their claim. In some instances, they may not discover their injury until after the statute of limitations has passed. It wouldn’t be fair to hold a party to the normal statute of limitations in these cases. 

The delayed discovery rule creates a new start date for the statute of limitations. The date you discover your injuries — not the date of the accident – becomes the date from which you calculate the time limit. This rule is about fairness and allows accident victims to recover compensation for injuries that are immediately apparent.

What About Medical Malpractice Cases?

In medical malpractice cases, the delayed discovery rule can be more prevalent. Accordingly, the state of Florida decided to give a shorter statute of limitations period to medical malpractice. 

In Florida, if you have suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, you have two years to file your claim from the date of your injury or the date when you reasonably should have discovered your injury. 

If you have discovered an injury years after an accident or procedure, you should get in touch with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. If the court determines that the statute of limitations has run on your claim, then you will not be able to sue.

What Other Statute of Limitations Exceptions Exist?

There are a couple of other reasons why a statute of limitations can be put on pause or suspended. This pause is called “tolling.” 

Under Florida law, the following situations will allow for a statute of limitations to be tolled: 

  • If the person you are trying to sue is absent from the state or is hiding 
  • If the person you are trying to sue is using a false name to avoid service
  • If the person you are trying to sue is mentally incapacitated or is a minor

These are the main situations that will allow a court to toll the statute of limitations. Once the condition above no longer exists, the tolling ends, and the statute of limitations “clock” starts back up again.

Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you have been injured in an accident, then it is important to understand your legal options. Contact an experienced Clearwater injury attorney for help. Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers can help, contact us to schedule a free consultation at (727) 787-2500.