Sometimes accident injuries don’t appear for a while. Perhaps you didn’t seek medical attention immediately after an accident because your injuries seemed minor. Maybe an accident re-aggravated a prior injury, and now you can’t work. Or, perhaps you suffered injuries in a childhood incident, and now that you’re grown, you want to file a claim against the person who caused it.
Can you sue for an old injury? Maybe.
Personal injury claims are subject to a statute of limitations the maximum time limit for filing a claim in court. If you miss this deadline, the court will most likely deny your claim and you cannot sue for compensation for your damages. However, in some instances, the statute of limitations can pause, and you can still file a claim.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can review your accident and determine whether your case falls within this timeframe and if you have grounds to file a personal injury case.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Florida?
In Florida, the general statute of limitations for personal injury claims based on negligence is two years from the accident that injured you.
Some examples of injury claims that typically have a two-year deadline in Florida include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Rideshare accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
If the accident victim dies from their injuries even weeks or months after the accident, the case becomes a wrongful death claim. Florida has a two-year statute of limitations from the victim’s death for the estate to file a wrongful death claim in court.
If you suffered an old injury caused by an accident less than two years ago, you may still file a claim seeking compensation for medical bills and lost income. If the accident that caused your injury happened more than two years ago, filing a claim for compensation becomes a bit trickier. But it’s not impossible.
What Are Possible Exceptions to Florida’s Statute of Limitations?
Florida’s deadline for personal injury claims isn’t black and white. As mentioned above, in some gray areas the statute of limitations may go on hold. These rare exceptions can afford you more time to file your claim.
Here are some reasons why you may sue for an old injury:
You Were a Minor When You Someone Injured You
Children cannot enter into legal contracts or settlements on their own, but their parents can file a claim for them. If the parents do not file a claim by the time the child reaches 18, they may file a claim of their own under a special provision in Florida’s statute of limitations.
Under this provision, the two-year clock doesn’t begin ticking until the child’s 18th birthday. However, the deadline expires seven years after the accident, regardless of the child’s age.
You Didn’t Discover Your Injury Until Later
Florida’s two-year statute of limitations begins on the date someone injured you, which is generally the date the accident occurred. But the clock might begin on the date you knew or should have known about your injury. Some accident injuries take time to develop and may not immediately present signs or symptoms.
Some examples include:
- Traumatic brain injuries or concussions
- Back pain
- Soft tissue damage
- Nerve damage
- Internal bleeding
Because accident injuries do not always appear immediately, seek medical attention after an injury, even if you don’t feel injured or your injuries appear minor.
You Didn’t Learn the Cause Until Later
You may not know right away that another person or party caused or contributed to your accident until much later.
Maximum Medical Improvement
If you suffered injuries in an accident, your lawyer may advise you to wait until you reach the point of maximum medical improvement before filing a claim. Maximum medical improvement is when your treating physician deems further improvement in your medical condition is no longer possible. It can take a while to reach this point.
While this does not provide an exception to the statute of limitations, your lawyer may consider your maximum medical improvement before filing a personal injury claim.
Lawsuits Against Government Entities
When filing a claim against a state or local government agency, you must first send notice in writing to the appropriate department of your intention to file a claim. Your notice must include the date of the accident, accident facts, and details of your injuries. You must send this letter within three years of the accident. However, Florida has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims based on negligence, so you may need to file much sooner to meet deadlines should you wish to keep the option to sue.
The government has 180 days from the date it received your written notice to investigate the claim and respond. If the government agency denies your claim, or if you have not received a response 180 days after you filed your notice with the agency and if no more than three years has passed since your injury—you may sue for damages.
Work with a personal injury attorney on these difficult claims involving state or local government entities.
How Do I Prove Negligence?
You must prove the other party’s negligence to succeed with your personal injury claim.
To do this, you need to establish the four elements of negligence:
- Duty of care: You must establish that the other party had a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent harm. For example, all drivers must drive safely and follow the rules of the road to protect others from harm.
- Breach of duty: You must also show that the other party breached their legal duty. In other words, a driver who speeds or drives recklessly breaches their duty of care by endangering others.
- Causation: You must also establish that the other party’s breach of duty caused the accident that injured you. For example, because the other driver broke the speed limit, they lost control of their car and crashed into you, resulting in your injuries.
- Damages; Finally, you have to show that you suffered damages due to your accident-related injuries. Damages may include medical expenses, lost income, pain, and suffering.
What Compensation Can I Recover for Old Injuries?
You may recover compensation for two primary categories of damages—economic and non-economic—through a personal injury claim.
Bills and invoices can quantify economic damages for:
- Current medical expenses like treatments, hospitalization, medication, and rehabilitation
- Future medical expenses
- Lost income
Non-economic damages include more subjective outcomes like:
- Physical pain and discomfort
- Emotional distress
- Decreased quality of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Disabilities and permanent impairments
In rare circumstances, a court may also award punitive damages. Also called exemplary damages, punitive damages punish a defendant for particularly egregious behavior and serve as an example to discourage others from engaging in similar behaviors.
What Is My Old Injury Claim Worth?
Several factors may determine how much compensation you may receive for your damages:
- The extent and severity of your injury
- Whether the injury is permanent
- The type of medical care your injuries require now and what you may need in the future
- Your ability to work after the accident
- The amount of income you lost due to your injuries
- The level of your pain and suffering
- The strength of your evidence
- Your ability to live the life you desired
- The willingness of the insurance company to provide fair compensation for your losses
Issues Dealing with Insurance Companies
Insurance companies notoriously offer quick settlements that don’t reach the full value of your damages. If you don’t know what compensation you deserve, you could leave money on the table money you need.
Insurers may also twist your words or blame you for your accident. Never admit fault, as you may not know at the time the actual cause of your accident. For these reasons, never accept a settlement offer from an insurance company without first speaking with a lawyer.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me?
Working with an experienced attorney if you are dealing with an old injury from an accident can greatly improve your chances of obtaining full and fair compensation for your damages.
A lawyer may assist you with your claim by:
- Determining the full extent and value of your damages.
- Advising you on laws and timelines that may affect your claim.
- Identifying all liable parties.
- Negotiating with insurance companies to reach a fair financial settlement.
- Filing your case within the statute of limitations.
- Representing you in court and advocating for you.
- Providing you peace of mind that a professional will properly handle your legal matters so you can focus on your recovery.
Why You Should Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer from Redemption Law
You may still have time to file a personal injury claim to recover compensation for your accident-related damages, including medical bills and lost wages.
The personal injury attorney in Miami with Redemption Law has the compassion, experience, client approval, and track record to get the compensation you deserve. Contact our personal injury law firm today for your free consultation and case evaluation.