Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases: Four Years To Bring A Claim, But When Does Time Start Ticking?
A statute of limitations is the time within which one has to bring a claim/law suit against another party. The time is different for different types of actions, but for personal injury and negligent lawsuits in Florida, the general answer is, “Four Years.” But, when does the four years start? Obviously, the answer to this more specific question will determine how long a plaintiff has to bring a claim. In negligence cases, there is plenty of reasons to argue the time starts ticking when the negligent act occurred. And, this is certainly an easy way to look at it. If someone runs a red light and injures a driver of another car, the date of the negligent act is the date of running of the red light. In this situation, the negligent act and the known resulting injury happen on the same day. Therefore, the statute of limitations runs 4 years from the date of the accident. However, not every negligent act results in obvious injury/damage on the same day.
A recent case out of the 4th DCA provides an opportunity to review a different scenario leading to a different result. In Riverwalk at Sunrise Homeowners Ass’n, Inc. v. Biscayne Painting Corp, __ So.3d __, 41 FLW D1828 (Fla. 4th DCA 8/10/2016) the negligent action was based on a paint job that began to crack, chip, flake and otherwise fall off the exterior of the buildings. Plaintiff accused Defendant of being negligent in connection with the painting job by failing to test and inspect the condition of the stucco which covered the buildings and warn the Plaintiff that the paint applied might fail due to the high pH of the stucco. In other words, the Defendant had held himself out to be a professional painter that knew what he was doing in painting stucco buildings and the reasonable painter under these conditions would have known the particular type of paint applied would not work for the long term with the existing stucco. The Defendant painter argued the action was time barred because it was filed more than four years after the alleged failure to inspect and warn. The trial court agreed with the Defendant, reasoning that the cause of action accrued at the latest at the time the contractor inspected the premises (about the time of the work). However, the 4th DCA reversed this decision holding that a cause of action for negligence does not accrue until the Plaintiff suffers actual loss or damages, and holding that the statute of limitations (the four year time limit the Plaintiff had to bring the claim) did not begin to run until the paint began to fail. At that point, the Plaintiff would have four years within which to bring a claim.
The time limit within which one can bring a claim is not always clear and may depend on the circumstances of the claim. If you have a potential negligent claim against another that has resulted in damage to you, a free consultation with an experienced negligence attorney is available. Contact Syfrett, Dykes & Furr to discuss your potential claim. (850) 795-4979.