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 money you owe.
In Florida, some types of debt have different statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for these other types of debt include:
- Debts for personal injury or property damage (4 years)
- Unpaid property tax (20 years)
- Fraud (12 years)
- Unpaid alimony (no time limit)
When Does the Clock Start on the Statute of Limitations?
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.
What is the Statute of Limitations Law in Florida?
A statute of limitations refers to the amount of time someone has to sue another person after the claim occurs. In Florida, the statute of limitations for debt, as well as for any other type of lawsuit, is governed by section 95.11 of Florida law.
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.
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 to 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 off of 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 timeframe 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 5 years. Many states instead have a statute of limitations for 6 years. Some states even set the statute of limitations at 10 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 garnishmetns and bank account garnishments. Asset protection for most people should be focused in 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 can 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 what assets they have. 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.
Purpose of the Statute of Limitations for Debt in Florida
The reason why Florida has a statute of limitations for debt is to ensure that legal claims are brought while evidence is readily available. Without a statute of limitations, a creditor would have an unlimited time to bring a lawsuit for any unpaid bills or personal injury claim. 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.