What Is the Statute of Limitation in Florida?

The statute of limitations is the Florida law that states how long you have to file a lawsuit for a particular claim. In most cases, the statute of limitations is 5 years or less from when the claim began.

Here are three key points about the statute of limitations in Florida:

  1. The statute of limitations in Florida varies depending on the type of crime or civil claim. For example, there’s a four-year limit for personal injury but no limit for murder cases.
  2. The clock for the statute of limitations starts at different times based on the case. For criminal cases, it typically starts at the time of the offense, while for civil cases, it may begin when the injury or damage is discovered.
  3. There are exceptions and extensions to these limitations. For example, in cases involving minors or incapacitated persons, the statute may be extended, and some crimes, like fraud, might have a delayed start date.

Where Does the Statute of Limitations Come From?

The legal tradition of a statute of limitations is old. Ancient legal systems had statutes of limitations. In ancient Greece, for example, the statute of limitations for debt was five years, just like it is now in Florida. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that legal claims are brought while evidence is readily available and memories are still accurate.

Statute of Limitations Periods in Florida

The specific statute of limitations deadline in Florida depends on the type of legal claim being pursued. The law is found in section 95.11 of the Florida Statutes. The most important statute of limitations in Florida are as follows:

Recover on a judgment: 20 years

The statute of limitations to enforce a judgment in Florida is 20 years. This is the amount of time a creditor has to collect on a monetary judgment. After 20 years, the creditor cannot collect on the judgment. This means a money judgment only lasts 20 years. However, the creditor may initiate an action to renew the judgment prior to the 20-year expiration, although this is rare.

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Unpaid property tax: 20 years

The statute of limitations in Florida to collect unpaid property tax is 20 years. After 20 years, the county or city cannot take action to recover unpaid property taxes.

Breach of a written contract: 5 years

In Florida, the statute of limitations to sue for breach of written contracts is 5 years. Written contracts also include promissory notes. These debts are not collectible once five years have elapsed since the date of the first missed payment.

Foreclose a mortgage: 5 years

The statute of limitations in Florida for mortgage foreclosure is 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.

Private student loans: 5 years

Under Florida law, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit based on a private student loan is 5 years. A lender has 5 years from the date of the last payment made to file a lawsuit for private student loans.

Credit card debt: 4 years

The statute of limitations for credit card debt is 4 years in Florida. This is the statute of limitations for an open account, which includes credit cards.

Breach of oral contract: 4 years

In Florida, the statute of limitations to sue for breach of an oral contract is 4 years, which is 1 year less than written contracts. A person must prove the existence of the oral contract in order to file a claim.

Most claims concerning real property: 4 years

The statute of limitations to sue for claims about real property is 4 years. This time period refers to lawsuits regarding real estate other than foreclosures.

Fraud: 4 years

The statute of limitations to sue for fraud in Florida is 4 years. A fraud claim must include specifics. A person cannot claim general fraudulent contact.

Trespassing: 4 years

In Florida, the statute of limitations for trespassing is 4 years. Trespassing occurs when someone enters another person’s land without permission.

Intentional torts: 4 years

Intentional torts have a statute of limitations of 4 years in Florida. Examples of intentional torts include battery, assault, defamation, libel, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The person who suffered damages has four years to file a lawsuit after the damages were incurred.

Negligence, personal injury, and car accidents: 2 years

The statute of limitations in Florida for claims of negligence, personal injury, and car accidents is 2 years. A common type of personal injury lawsuit is one based on a car accident. The injured person has two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations used to be 4 years but was reduced to two years in 2023.

Unpaid wages and overtime: 2 years

In Florida, the statute of limitations for unpaid wages and overtime is only 2 years. These claims usually revolve around whether time spent doing certain types of activity counts as being on the job. Some types of claims may have a different time period.

Defamation, libel, and slander: 2 years

Claims for defamation, libel, and slander have a statute of limitations of 2 years in Florida. Libel is defamation that is written. Slander is defamation that is oral.

Medical malpractice: 2 years

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Florida is 2 years. Medical malpractice involves making a claim against a doctor for their negligence in providing care.

Attorney malpractice: 2 years

In Florida, the statute of limitations for attorney malpractice is 2 years. For both medical malpractice and attorney malpractice, the law is complex as to when the two-year time period begins to run. It is not necessarily when the malpractice occurred.

Wrongful death: 2 years

Wrongful death claims have a statute of limitations period of 2 years in Florida. Wrongful death actions are typically brought by someone on behalf of the “estate” of the deceased person.

Construction bonds: 1 year

In Florida, construction bond claims have a statute of limitations period of 1 year. A creditor can enforce a construction bond by foreclosing on the property.

Specific performance: 1 year

The statute of limitations for specific performance in Florida is 1 year. Specific performance means requiring a person to take a specific action. For example, requiring a person to sell property pursuant to a real estate contract.

Unpaid alimony: none

There is no statute of limitations for unpaid alimony. A person can file a claim of unpaid alimony at any time.

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Statute of Limitations in Florida for Debt

The statute of limitations for debt in Florida is five years. A creditor has five years to sue you for the money you owe. Most debts are based on written agreements, and the statute of limitations period for contract actions is five years.

Florida law says the following about lawsuits based on a contractual debt:

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.

Some people are unsure how long a debt collector can pursue them for old debt in Florida, or how long they can legally be chased for a debt in Florida. As stated above, the default answer is five years. There are exceptions in the statute for debts within a special category.

Reviewing the statute of limitations in Florida

When Does the Clock Start on the Statute of Limitations in Florida?

The Florida statute of limitations for consumer debt begins to run on the date a payment is missed or the date the liability occurred. If a debtor misses a minimum credit card payment, the statute of limitations for that debt will start the day the missed payment was due.

Certain actions might pause the statute of limitations for debt collection. In Florida, making a partial payment on a contractual debt (like a credit card payment) will reset, or toll, the statute of limitations.

Important: Some actions might renew the statute of limitations. For example, making occasional payments on debt or entering into any modification or settlement agreement resets the clock on the statute of limitations.

Florida Statute of Limitations for Debt Compared to Other States

The five-year statute of limitations for consumer debt in Florida is one of the lowest in the country. Many states have a six-year statute of limitations. Some states even set the statute of limitations at ten years for debt based on written contracts.

Furthermore, Florida’s asset protection laws are some of the strongest in the country, making it relatively difficult for a creditor to collect a judgment for contractual debt.

Protecting Assets During the Statute of Limitations Period

It is never too late to protect your assets from potential creditors. Even after you default on a debt agreement, you probably have options to protect your assets from the judgment based on the debt.

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, improving your leverage in negotiating a settlement.

What is the statute of limitations in Florida for debt

The most common methods of collection after a lawsuit is filed and judgment is entered are wage garnishments and bank account garnishments. A person anticipating a lawsuit and judgment should determine if they qualify for the head of family exemption from salary garnishment. Individuals who default on debt obligations should ensure that their financial accounts are owned as tenants by entireties (for married couples), or they can move their cash deposits to 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.

Early asset protection is effective. Rather than wait out the statute of limitations period hoping that a potential creditor does not file a lawsuit, a debtor should proactively protect their assets so that a lawsuit or judgment will be less 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 they can make you testify under oath about the nature and location of your assets. Asset protection focuses on legal tools to structure your assets and income in a way that makes collection by a judgment creditor difficult.

Get advice for your specific situation.

You’ll learn which assets are at risk and how to protect them. We help people throughout Florida by phone or Zoom.

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FAQs About Statute of Limitations in Florida

How does the statute of limitations work in Florida?

In Florida, a statute of limitations sets legal time limits on how long a party has to initiate a lawsuit after an alleged offense or harm. For example, personal injury claims must be filed within four years, while written contract disputes have a five-year limitation period. The legal action is typically barred once the statute of limitations expires, preventing the case from being brought to court.

What is the statute of limitations for credit card debt in Florida?

The statute of limitations for credit card debt in Florida is four years. Because debts based on open accounts, such as credit cards, have a statute of limitations of four years, the credit card issuer has four 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 five years. Florida statutes do not provide a separate category for collection of medical debts. 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 four years. This is shorter than debts 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 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.

What is the statute of limitations on car repossession in Florida?

The statute of limitations on car repossession in Florida is five years. Once five years has elapsed from your last payment, the car lender cannot obtain a money judgment against you for the amount still owed on the vehicle. However, the lender can still repossess the car without filing a lawsuit.

How long does someone have to sue you?

Cases must be filed within the statute of limitations. In Florida, most deadlines are five years or less.

Gideon Alper

About the Author

Gideon Alper is an attorney who specializes in asset protection planning. He graduated with honors from Emory University Law School and has over 15 years of legal experience.

Gideon has helped thousands of clients protect their assets from creditors. Before private practice, he represented the federal government while working for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.

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