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Can Parties Contract Around Default Statutes of Limitations in Florida Personal Injury Cases?

All Florida personal injury cases must follow certain procedural rules in order to be properly heard by a court. In most cases, court procedural rules are jurisdictional, meaning that a party’s failure to comply with a rule deprives the court of the jurisdiction – or power – to hear the case. Thus, when certain rules are not followed, Florida courts have little discretion but to dismiss the case.

One of the most troublesome procedural rules in Florida personal injury cases is the statute of limitations. Essentially, a statute of limitations sets the time by which a plaintiff’s claim must be filed. While there are certain exceptions, in Florida, most personal injury cases must be filed within four years of the plaintiff’s injury. For Florida medical malpractice cases, the case must be filed within four years of the alleged act of negligence.

Of course, there are exceptions to these general rules that can extend the amount of time an accident victim has to file their claim. For example, if a plaintiff’s injury is not discovered until a later date, the statute of limitations may be determined to have begun at the time the plaintiff discovered their injury, rather than at the time the injury occurred.

Given the importance of statutes of limitations, the question often arises whether parties are able to modify an applicable statute of limitations by contract. Indeed, a recent appellate decision from neighboring Georgia dismissed a plaintiff’s claim when they failed to file a timely complaint under an agreed-upon reduced statute of limitations. Under Florida Statutes section 95.03, however, Florida law  does not allow for the modification of a statute of limitations. This includes both extending and reducing the amount of time a party has to file a lawsuit.

This is important for accident victims to understand because even though Florida law does not allow for the modification of statutes of limitations, parties routinely include clauses in contracts designed to do just that. In the event a contract contains a clause limiting or extending a statute of limitations, if challenged, a Florida court will strike down that particular clause, giving it no legal effect. The court would then likely do its best to keep the rest of the contract intact as evidenced by the parties’ intentions at the time the document was executed.

It is also important for Florida personal injury plaintiffs to understand that they are able to modify or waive other rights they have. For example, Florida courts will generally uphold arbitration agreements unless there was a defect in the agreement itself, or the agreement is unfair to one party.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida slip and fall or another accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, it is critically important that you act sooner rather than later to preserve your rights. The dedicated South Florida injury lawyers at the law firm of Cecere Santana have extensive experience representing Florida victims and their families in all types of personal injury matters, including Florida slip-and-fall accidents and car accidents. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case, call 800-753-5529 today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Government Agency Opens Investigation Following Fatal Florida Tesla Accident, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, May 30, 2018.

Florida Court Holds Determination of Whether Grocery Store Had Knowledge of Spill Was a Question for the Jury, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published June 13, 2018.

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