How Long After a Motorcycle Accident Can I File a Claim?
The majority of car accidents are minor incidents with no injuries or fatalities. Yet, other accidents cause minor to severe injuries and even fatalities in the most serious accidents. When motorcycles are involved, the accident and injury rate dramatically increases. Bikers don’t have the same protection as vehicle occupants. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, or a loved one has lost their life, Florida law entitles you to sue for damages when injury or fatality was a result of another party’s negligence; however, you must take legal action before the statute of limitations runs out on your case. The following information offers information about Florida statutes of limitations in motorcycle accident cases.
For immediate assistance with your case and to discuss the best course of action for you and your family, contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at (833) 552-7274 (833-55-CRASH). We serve injured clients from our Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and New Port Richey offices.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
Broadly speaking a statute of limitations is a law that governs the time limit to take legal action after an injury or crime. Civil actions and criminal offenses have statutes of limitations, but they vary depending on the situation and from state to state. In personal injury cases, such as motorcycle accident claims, the statute of limitations specifically refers to the amount of time that an injured party has to sue an allegedly liable party for damages in civil court. When the clock runs out, Florida law prohibits victims from filing a lawsuit to recover damages related to an accident and their injuries. Florida law has multiple states of limitations for each type of case, including motorcycle accident claims.
Florida Statutes of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
The specific Florida statute of limitations that applies to a motorcycle accident case varies based on the party named in the lawsuit and whether the accident caused a fatality.
- Motorcycle accident injury claims. Under Florida law, injured parties who wish to take legal action must file a lawsuit within four years from the date of the motorcycle accident. Once the four year time limit expires, a Florida court will likely refuse to hear a case. In rare cases that have extraordinary circumstances, the court might make an exception, but it is still highly unlikely.
- Wrongful death motorcycle accident claims. Florida law entitles surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim against a negligent party, if they have lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident as long as they do so within two years after the accident.
- Product liability injury claims. When motorcycle accidents result from defective bike parts such as tires, throttles, or fuel tanks, victims must file a product liability lawsuit with the help of a qualified attorney. When a defect causes injury, the four-year statute of limitation applies; when a defect causes a fatality, the two-year limit for wrongful death suits applies.
- Motorcycle accident injury claims against a government entity. In the even that poorly maintained roads cause a motorcycle accident, or a driver in a government vehicle causes an accident, victims can sue the associated government agency or subdivision for damages. Under Florida law, victims have three years from the date of the accident to file suit against a government entity.
- Property damage claims. Those who want to sue for property damage from a motorcycle accident including for damage or loss to their bike also have four years to take legal action.
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Extensions to Statutes of Limitations in Florida Motorcycle Accident Cases
Florida’s legal code clearly states time limits for legal action after a motor vehicle accident, including motorcycle accidents, but the code also provides circumstances in which the court might make an exception. Below are some common exceptions that might persuade the court to extend the statute of limitations for your case:
Location of the Defendant
When a defendant leaves Florida after the date of injury, it makes it impossible to serve him or her court documents to initiate a lawsuit. In these situations the court will stop the clock until the defendant returns to Florida. The same applies if the defendant tries to avoid service and hide out.
Sometimes a defendant might provide a false identity to law enforcement to avoid liability. In these cases, the court might extend the statute of limitations until the identity and location of the defendant is verified by law enforcement, insurance companies, or other investigator.
When a motorcycle accident victim suffers catastrophic injury making it next to impossible to file a claim, Florida law gives victims seven years from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit. Examples include victims who require extensive hospital stays for burns or because they were in a coma.
Sometimes an accident victim might not immediately realize the extent of their injuries; this is referred to as delayed discovery. Florida law states that a statute of limitations clock does not start until the date that a victim discovers an injury or the date in which a reasonable person should have discovered an injury. This situation occurs more frequently in product liability and medical malpractice cases than in motorcycle accident cases; however, it might occur in a motorcycle accident case.
The most common example of the relevance of delayed discovery in a motorcycle accident case is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The delayed discovery rule is meant to allow victims enough time to file a claim after discovering an injury. Some motorcycle accident injuries, like TBIs, don’t present symptoms for weeks or months. Although a mild TBI might heal quickly, the victim might not discover the extent of the injury to brain function for a long time.
Minor Motorcycle Accident Victims
When minors are injured as a result of a motorcycle accident, the court might start the statute of limitations clock when they turn 18 if no one filed a lawsuit on their behalf. These situations vary greatly, so you will need to have a discussion about this with your attorney if you were injured as a minor or your dependent child suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident.
Statutes of Repose in Florida Motorcycle Accident Cases
A statute of repose is another type of law that mandates time limits on personal injury cases. The legal community sees these statutes as favoring the defense because they place an absolute time limit on seeking damages in civil court. A statute of repose might even start the clock before an injury occurs. Broadly speaking, statutes of repose do not apply to motorcycle accident cases in Florida, unless the accident was a result of a defective motorcycle, motorcycle part, or helmet. Product liability claims are subject to both statutes of limitations and repose in Florida.
Under Florida law, victims may not take legal action for injury or fatality when a defective product that has an expected life of less than 10 years if the injury occurred more than 12 years after the initial delivery of the product to the first owner. For example, if a 15-year old motorcycle tire blew out on the highway and caused an accident, the injured party cannot seek damages even if the tire had a known defect. The statute of repose also requires that the first purchaser cannot sell or lease a product to use it as a component part. This prevents a motorcycle manufacturer from suiting a parts company who supplied their parts.
What if the Statute of Limitations Ends on my Motorcycle Accident Claim?
If you try to file a personal injury lawsuit for your motorcycle accident claim after the statute of limitation ends, the defense will move to dismiss your case because you filed late. The previously mentioned exceptions provide good cause for the court to hear your case, but many times the court will still deny the case. Once a Florida court dismisses your motorcycle accident case, you are prohibited from seeking damages for your injuries regardless of who caused the accident and how strong of a claim you have. Consulting and hiring with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney soon after your injury is the best way to ensure that you don’t miss out on compensation that you deserve because your statute of limitations ran out.
Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance Coverage
Motor vehicle drivers and motorcycle drivers in Florida must provide proof of insurance when they register a vehicle. Florida law requires that motorists must carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) coverage. Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means that when you are involved in an accident—car, motorcycle, truck, or otherwise—you must file a claim with your own insurance carrier before suing another driver. Once you have met or exceeded your PIP policy limit, you can file a personal injury suit to recover additional damages. Your attorney will guide you through these claims and a lawsuit while taking into account the applicable statute of limitations for your claim.
What Should I Do After a Motorcycle Accident in Florida?
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident in Florida, the following tips will maximize your chances of recovering some or all of the losses you have incurred as a result of your injury:
- Seek medical treatment ASAP. You must prioritize your health and safety after a motorcycle accident. If you weren’t transported to the emergency room via ambulance and immediately admitted to the hospital, you need to have a physician examine you as soon as possible. A strong motorcycle accident injury claim requires proof that your injury was a result of the accident. Medical documentation provides leverage for your lawyer to negotiate a settlement and proof of injury if you go to trial. Some injuries don’t immediately present symptoms, especially head injuries, so listen to your body in the days and weeks following your motorcycle accident.
- Keep records, bills, and receipts. A strong injury claim requires proving economic loss. Pay stubs that show you have missed work, medical bills not covered by insurance, and receipts for motorcycle repairs all serve as proof of economic loss. Additionally, you should document mileage and gas receipts for trips to and from the hospital or clinic for treatment and follow-up visits.
- Don’t speak with the other party’s insurance company. In severe accidents where fault is obvious and it’s likely you will exceed your PIP policy limits, the driver’s insurance carrier might make a settlement offer. Insurance companies train adjusters to elicit statements from you that reveal you are partially at fault for the accident. These initial offers are attractive especially if you are feeling financially stressed, but they are often far less than you deserve. When you speak to the insurance company, you risk saying something that could devalue your claim. Let your lawyer handle all communications and settlement negotiations while you focus on rehabilitation.
- Don’t talk about your case with others. When you share details of your motorcycle accident with your family, friends, and neighbors, you also create a situation that might devalue your claim. Insurance companies who investigate your accident will talk to those close to you, also trying to find evidence of fault or evidence that your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim. It’s best that your loved ones don’t have any information to share. The same applies to posting on social media. Keep your case off of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. An insurance company might find information to devalue your claim.
Hire Our Law Firm to Handle Your Claim Before the Statute of Limitations Runs Out
When you or a loved one suffers injury or dies in a motorcycle accident, you need a trustworthy and reputable attorney to represent you while you seek compensation for your damages. The skilled legal team at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, is here to advocate for you and guide you through the claims process after your motorcycle accident. Contact us today at (833) 552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) for a free consultation. We serve injured clients from our Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and New Port Richey offices.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765