Florida Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules

Florida laws that could affect a personal injury case, including time limits to file a lawsuit and shared fault rules.

By , J.D.

If you've been injured in a car accident, a slip and fall, or any other kind of mishap, it helps to be familiar with the different state laws that could come into play if you decide to file an injury-related insurance claim or lawsuit. In this article, we'll provide a snapshot of Florida's statute of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits, the state's "pure comparative negligence" rule, and more.

What is Florida's Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits?

Like every other state, Florida sets limits on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in civil court against the person or business that might be legally at fault for your injury. This law is called a statute of limitations.

Under Florida's statute of limitations for personal injury cases, you have two years to file a "negligence"-based lawsuit in Florida's civil courts. (Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(a) (2023).)

Since the fault theory of negligence applies to most accident scenarios (including car accidents and slip and falls), this two-year deadline applies to most Florida personal injury cases.

(Note: This two-year variation of Florida's injury-related statute of limitations took effect on March 24, 2023. If your injury occurred before that date, the previous version of the statute of limitations likely applies, and you'll have four years to get your lawsuit filed, starting from the date of your injury.)

What If I Miss the Florida Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Deadline?

If you don't file your personal injury lawsuit within the two-year time window, the court will very likely refuse to hear it at all, and you'll have lost your right to hold the at-fault party responsible for your injuries and other losses. This harsh result illustrates why it's crucial to operate with the filing deadline in the back of your mind.

Will the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Ever Be Extended In Florida?

In some situations, you might not "discover" that you actually suffered harm for some time after the incident that caused the injury, and in those instances Florida's lawsuit-filing window could be extended, so that the two-year "clock" doesn't start until you've had a reasonable chance to understand the nature of what happened.

Other exceptions could alter the applicable deadline, including when:

  • the injured person was legally "incapacitated" at the time of the underlying accident
  • the person who allegedly caused the injury left the state of Florida at some point after the accident, and before the lawsuit could be filed, and
  • the defendant took steps to conceal themselves in Florida, or changed his or her name or identity, in order to prevent being served with the lawsuit.

These exceptions (and more) can be found at Florida Statutes section 95.051.

Where Do I File a Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Most Florida personal injury lawsuits are filed in the state's circuit courts or county courts, which between them have statewide jurisdiction over most civil cases:

  • There are 20 circuit courts in Florida, with the jurisdiction to hear most civil lawsuits (including those in which more than $50,000 is being sought).
  • There's a Florida county court in each of the state's 67 counties, and these courts hear civil disputes involving $50,000 or less.

So, if you're planning on asking for more than $50,000 in compensation for your injuries, circuit court is likely the right option. For smaller personal injury cases in Florida, county court is often the best bet.

Chances are, you'll file your lawsuit in the circuit or county court that serves the area where the person you're suing lives, or where your injury occurred. Get more details on the Florida circuit court system.

How Do I Start a Personal Injury Lawsuit In Florida?

Your Florida personal injury lawsuit will usually start when you:

  • file a "petition" with the court identifying your claims against the person or business you're suing (the defendant), and
  • "serve" the defendant with the petition to let them know they're being sued.

Can I File a Personal Injury Case In Florida Small Claims Court?

If your injuries were minor and you're not planning on asking for more than $8,000 from the at-fault party, you might consider filing your personal injury case in small claims court. Learn more about small claims cases in Florida.

What If My Injury Was Caused by Government Negligence In Florida?

if you're filing an injury claim against the government (state or local) in Florida, you'll need to play by a distinct set of rules, which includes a shortened time limit for notifying the proper agency of your claim. Learn more about filing an injury claim against the government in Florida.

What If I'm Partly At Fault for My Injury In Florida?

In some cases, the person you're trying to hold liable for your injuries may turn around and say that you're actually to blame (at least in part) for causing the accident that led to your injuries (or for making your injuries worse).

If you do share some amount of fault for your injuries, that can affect the amount of compensation you can receive from other at-fault parties. (Get the basics on shared fault in personal injury cases.)

Florida follows a "modified comparative negligence rule" in cases like these. Under this rule, the amount of compensation ("damages") you're entitled to receive in court will be reduced by a percentage that's equal to your share of fault for the accident. But if your share of fault is more than 50 percent, you can't recover compensation from any other at-fault party. Note that this rule doesn't apply to Florida medical malpractice cases, or to wrongful death lawsuits filed in the state.

How Does Florida's Comparative Negligence Rule Work?

Let's say you're in a car accident where the other driver ran a red light, but you were driving a few miles an hour above the posted speed limit, you might share 10 percent of the blame for the accident, while the other driver is 90 percent to blame. Your lawsuit goes all the way to trial, and the judge decides that your damages add up to $50,000. Under Florida's comparative negligence rule, your compensation will be reduced to $45,000 (or the $50,000 total minus the $5,000 that accounts for your share of fault.)

If the fault shares are flipped, and you're found to be more at fault than the other driver, you'll be barred from recovering any damages in court.

Courts in Florida are obligated to follow this rule in an injury lawsuit, and if you're dealing with an insurance adjuster outside the court system, don't be surprised if they raise the comparative negligence rule during settlement negotiation.

Is Florida a No-Fault Car Insurance State?

Yes. In car accident cases only, Florida follows a no-fault insurance system, which means that after most traffic accidents, an injured person's own insurance policy (specifically, their "personal injury protection" coverage) will provide compensation for certain out-of-pocket losses like medical bills and lost income, no matter who was at fault for the car accident.

Get the details on Florida's car insurance laws and requirements.

"Strict" Bite Liability for Florida Dog Owners

In Florida, dog owners are held to a pretty unforgiving fault standard when their dog bites someone.

Florida Statutes Annotated section 767.04 makes a dog owner liable for injuries and other damages suffered by anyone bitten by the owner's dog:

  • regardless of the animal's past behavior, and
  • as long as the victim was lawfully on the property where the bite took place.

Note that the victim's own negligence can reduce the dog owner's liability. Learn more about Florida dog bite laws.

Are There Damages Caps in Florida Injury Cases?

Damages caps set a limit on the amount of money an injured person can receive in certain kinds of cases, or for certain types of losses.

In terms of personal injury cases, the most important Florida law on damage caps pertains to punitive damages. In most injury lawsuits where the plaintiff is successful, Florida limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000 whichever amount is greater. This law can be found at Florida Statutes Annotated section 768.73.

But it's important to note that punitive damages are only available in a small percentage of injury cases. They're meant to punish the wrongdoer for particularly dangerous or reprehensible behavior. Learn more about punitive damages and gross negligence in personal injury cases.

More Details on Florida Personal Injury Laws

If you want to do a little legal research of your own on Florida's negligence and personal injury laws, you'll find a lot of relevant information in Florida Statutes Annotated Title XLV (Torts), and Florida Statutes Annotated Chapter 768 (Negligence).

You can also learn more about:

For information that's tailored to your specific situation, you might want to discuss your potential case with a Florida personal injury lawyer.

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