If you or a loved one have been hurt in a car accident or were otherwise injured by the negligence of someone else in Georgia, you will only have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit to make a formal demand for compensation from the person who hurt you. If you do not comply with this restriction, your lawsuit will be thrown out with little hesitation.
While there are several good reasons for this time limit, it can still pose an obstacle for victims who deserve to be compensated for their injuries.
Accident Victims in Georgia (Usually) Have Two Years to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The general rule in Georgia comes from Georgia Code § 9-3-33. This is the statute of limitations for personal injury claims. It requires almost all of these lawsuits to be filed within two years of the injury unless an exception applies.
This statute of limitations applies to “injuries to the person,” which in Georgia means all personal injury claims, like:
- Car or motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Premises liability injuries
- Products liability injuries
- Dog bite cases
There are, however, exceptions to this rule. For example, a four-year statute of limitations applies to loss of consortium claims (damages sustained by the spouse of an injured person), while a one-year limitation period applies to damages to reputation, such as defamation, libel, and slander.
Extension of Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Certain Circumstances
There are a few important exceptions to the two-year window that accident victims have to file a lawsuit for compensation in which the time period may be longer.
When a victim of an accident was under the age of 18 at the time of the incident, the statute of limitations tolls, or does not begin, until the victim turns 18 under Georgia Code § 9-3-90.
For example, if a car accident ends up hurting both a 5-year-old and a 17-year-old, they will both have until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit for compensation: the statute of limitations will not begin running until they turn 18, and then they will have two years to file their claim.
Underage victims of sexual abuse, meanwhile, have until their 23rd birthday to file a lawsuit for compensation against the perpetrator, under Georgia Code § 9-3-33.1.
Mentally Ill and Legally Incompetent Victims
The statute of limitations is also tolled for people who are either mentally ill or who are legally deemed incompetent to protect their own interests. Unlike for minors, though, there is no set time when the statute of limitations will begin. Instead, the statute is tolled until the disability is removed. Proving this type of disability is difficult, however.
For example, if a truck accident leaves a previously healthy adult driver in a coma – making them legally incompetent to protect their interests – the statute of limitations will not start until the victim comes out of the coma. If they do wake up, they will have two years to file a lawsuit.
Victims of a Crime
The statute of limitations is also tolled when the victim was hurt in an incident where an at-fault party was prosecuted for a crime as a result of their actions leading to the injury. Under Georgia Code § 9-3-99, the statute of limitations does not begin until the prosecution of the crime has become final or has otherwise reached a conclusion. However, the maximum amount of time that the statute can be delayed in these cases is six years.
Two Years from the Accident to File a Wrongful Death Claim
In accidents where the victim succumbed to their injuries, the victim's family can file a wrongful death claim on the behalf of the victim. These wrongful death lawsuits also have to comply with the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Separately, the estate of the person killed can pursue claims for any damages the deceased person would have been able to, such as burial expenses and pre-death pain and suffering. The two-year statute of limitations does not begin running until an estate has actually been established unless five years have run from the death, at which it begins.
Why Is There a Statute of Limitations?
Many people wonder why the statute of limitations exists, at all. Forcing victims to file their lawsuits quickly keeps many valid claims out of the courtroom.
While it may seem unfair, there are several suggested justifications for having a statute of limitations:
- It forces victims to file a lawsuit before witnesses forget what happened or become difficult to track down.
- It reduces the odds that important documents have been destroyed in the normal course of business.
- It gives finality to wrongdoer after a certain period of time
Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been hurt in Georgia, contact the Hadden Law Firm online for legal help.