What is the Statute of Limitations in Florida?
The statute of limitations in Florida is the amount of time someone has to sue another person after a claim occurs. The statute of limitations in Florida is governed by section 95.11 of Florida law. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that legal claims are brought while evidence is readily available. Without a statute of limitations, a claimant would have unlimited time to bring a lawsuit for unpaid bills or personal injury claims. The statute of limitations, then, encourages people or entities with a valid claim to timely file a lawsuit.
The legal tradition for having a statute of limitations is very old. Even ancient legal systems had a statute of limitations. In ancient Greece, for example, the statute of limitations for debt was five years, just like it is now in Florida.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Florida
The statute of limitations in Florida for various types of court actions include:
- Recover on a judgment (20 years). This time period refers to the amount of time a creditor has to collect on a monetary judgment. After 20 years, the creditor cannot collect on the judgment. However, the creditor may initiate an action to renew the judgment prior to the 20-year expiration, although this is rare.
- Unpaid property tax (20 years). After 20 years, the county or city cannot take action to recover on old unpaid proprty taxes.
- Breach of written contract (5 years). Written contracts include credit card debt and other loan agreements. These debts are not collectable once five years have elapsed since the date of the first missed payment.
- Foreclose a mortgage (5 years). A lender has 5 years from the date of the first missed payment (a default) to initiate a foreclosure action on the property.
- Breach of oral contract (4 years)
- Most claims concerning real property (4 years). This time period refers to any other lawsuits regarding real estate, not including foreclosures.
- Debts for personal injury or property damage (4 years). The most common type of personal injury lawsuit is one based on a car accident. The injured person has 4 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.
- Fraud (4 years)
- Negligence (4 years)
- Trespassing (4 years)
- Assault and battery (4 years)
- Intentional torts (4 years). Examples of intentional torts include battery, assault, defmation, libel, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The person who suffered damages has 4 years to file a lawsuit after the damages were incurred.
- Most claims for unpaid wages or overtime (2 years)
- Defamation, libel, and slander (2 years)
- Medical malpractice (2 years).
- Attorney malpractice (2 years). For both medical malpractice and attorney malpractice, the law is complex as to when the 2 years begins to run. It is not necessarily when the malpractice occured.
- Wrongful death (2 years). Wrongful death actions are typically brought by someone on behalf of the “estate” of the deceased person.
- Claims to enforce construction bond (1 year)
- Specific performance on a contract (1 year)
- Unpaid alimony (no time limit)
Statute of Limitations in Florida for Debt
The statute of limitations for debt in Florida is usually five years. This means that a creditor has five years to start a lawsuit against you for the money you owe. This is because most debts are based on written agreements.
The law says the following about lawsuits based on a contractual debt in Florida:
Actions other than for recovery of real property shall be commenced . . . within five years: a legal or equitable action on a contract, obligation, or liability founded on a written instrument.Section 95.11(2)(b), Fla. Stat.
Clients sometimes ask us how long a debt collector can pursue them for an old debt in Florida, or how long they can legally be chased for a debt in Florida. The default answer is five years. You should check the statute to see if the type of debt falls into a special category.
When Does the Clock Start on the Statute of Limitations in Florida?
In Florida, the statute of limitations for debt begins to run on the date that a payment is missed or the date on which the liability occurred.
For example, if you miss a minimum credit card payment, the statute of limitations for that debt will start the day the missed payment was due. Or, if you are involved in an auto accident, the clock starts the day the injuries occurred.
Certain actions might pause the timeframe of the statute of limitations. In Florida, making a partial payment on a contractual debt (like a credit card payment) will reset, or toll, the statute of limitations.
Questions About Statute of Limitations Debt in Florida
What is the statute of limitations for credit card debt in Florida?
The statute of limitations for credit card debt in Florida is five years. Credit card debt is based on a written contract between you and the credit card issuer. Because debts based on written contracts have a statute of limitations for five years, the credit card issuer will have five years from the date of a missed payment to file a lawsuit against you.
What’s the statute of limitations for medical debt in Florida?
The statute of limitations for medical debt in Florida is also five years. Although medical debt is very common, Florida statutes do not provide a separate category for collection. A hospital or other medical provider will have five years to file a lawsuit for unpaid medical bills starting from the date of the unpaid invoice or bill.
What is the statute of limitations for a car accident in Florida?
In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injury based on a car accident is only four years. This is a shorter time frame than debt based on a written contract. An injured person will have a full four years after the accident to file a lawsuit against you. However, most personal injury lawsuits based on car accidents are filed much sooner because the evidence is fresher, and the claimants would rather reach an early settlement.
What happens if someone files a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired?
If you are sued for a claim that occurred beyond the statute of limitations period, you could file a motion to dismiss the claim. You will have to point out the applicable statute of limitations and show that the timeframe has expired.
Florida Statute of Limitations for Debt Compared to Other States
The statute of limitations for debt in Florida is one of the lowest in the country at only five years. Many states instead have a statute of limitations for six years. Some states even set the statute of limitations at ten years for debt based on written contracts.
Furthermore, Florida asset protection laws are some of the strongest in the country, making the state very debtor-friendly compared to others.
Protecting Assets During the Statute of Limitations Period
It is never too late to protect your assets from potential creditors. Even after an incident has happened or after a missed payment, you almost always still have options to protect your assets from a potential creditor.
In fact, certain legal tools can be effective even after a lawsuit is filed or even after a judgment is entered. Protecting assets makes it more difficult for a judgment creditor to collect, giving you substantial leverage in negotiating a settlement.
The most common forms of collection after a lawsuit is filed and judgment entered are wage garnishments and bank account garnishments. Asset protection for most people should be focused on these areas.
For salary, a person anticipating a lawsuit and judgment can make sure they will qualify for the head of family exemption. As to bank accounts, a person could ensure that accounts are owned as tenants by entireties (for married couples) or could set up a bank account that cannot be garnished.
People with other asset categories, including real estate, LLC or corporate interests, or brokerage accounts, can use more sophisticated asset protection tools to guard against eventual collection activity by the potential creditor.
In general, the earlier one tries to protect their assets, the more options they have.
Rather than wait out the statute of limitations period hoping that a potential creditor does not file a lawsuit, a proactive person can use the time to protect their assets so that a lawsuit or judgment will not be as damaging financially.
Note that asset protection is not about hiding money or hoping a creditor will not discover assets. Creditors have extensive post-judgment discovery tools and can make you testify under oath as to the nature and location of your assets.
Instead, asset protection focuses on using legal tools to structure your assets and income in a way that makes collection by a judgment creditor difficult or, in some cases, nearly impossible.
Last updated on November 22, 2021