What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Georgia?
A “statute of limitation” is a law that applies to all personal injury cases that are filed in the Georgia civil court system. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident and suffered an injury, this Georgia law may pertain to your case. Also known as a “time limit,” a statute of limitations sets the maximum time after an event in which legal proceedings can be initiated. The purpose of a statute of limitation is to ensure that any convictions are made before evidence (eyewitness or physical) has begun to deteriorate. In Georgia, you generally have a maximum of two years to file a lawsuit in court starting from the date that your injury occurred.
What Is the Georgia Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?
If you want to make a personal injury claim in the state of Georgia, you have a set amount of time to do it. If you fail to make your claim within the statute of limitations, you will no longer be able to do so in the future. Personal injury claims that are made after the statute of limitations has expired are usually dismissed by the court system. In Georgia, the statute of limitations for any type of negligence or wrongdoing that causes an injury or death is, in general, two years.
However, know that Georgia does have limited circumstances in which a statute of limitations may be tolled or suspended. Each personal injury claim is analyzed case by case to determine if it falls under one of these exceptions.
Also remember that many times, an attorney will not agree to review or evaluate a case where the statute of limitations is set to expire in a matter of weeks or months. This is because it can take a significant amount of time to collect and examine the necessary documents and medical records needed to go forward with a case.
What are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?
There are a variety of scenarios that may delay the running “clock” put on the Georgia personal injury statute of limitations, which is typically a two-year filing deadline as written in the Georgia Code section 9-3-33. Some situations that may modify this deadline include:
- If the defendant leaves the state of Georgia following the accident that caused the personal injury and before the plaintiff has the opportunity to file a lawsuit and successfully serve the defendant with the necessary documentation, the defendant’s time of absence may not be counted in the two year statute of limitations. According to Georgia Code section 9-3-94, the “clock” will typically not resume until the defendant returns to Georgia to reside.
- If the person injured in the accident was a minor (meaning under 18 years of age) or was declared as legally incompetent due to a mental illness or intellectual disability at the time of the incident, the statute of limitations will usually not run out until the person turns 18 years of age or at the period in which the person who was declared incompetent is no longer considered incompetent, based on Georgia Code section 9-3-90.
- In a medical malpractice case for a minor injured under the age of five, the statute of limitations will not expire until the child is seven years old.
What is the Discovery Rule in Georgia?
In the typical personal injury case, the so called “discovery rule” does not apply. This rule states that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the person discovers the injury. But in Georgia, the statute of limitations begins to run when the injury occurs, regardless of whether you know you are injured. For example, if you have a hairline fracture as the result of an accident, but it is not discovered until a month later, the statute of limitations starts to run when the injury occurred, not a month later when you discovered it. There are special, limited circumstances, where there is a “discovery” type exemption to the running of the statute of limitations. You should consult an attorney to determine whether this applies to you.
It is important to understand that even if your case fits the terms for an extension of the Georgia statute of limitations, there is an ultimate deadline depending on the type of accident that occurred. For a medical malpractice claim, the statute of repose is five years, for a car accident claim, the statute of repose is six years, and for product liability claims, the statute of repose is ten years.
What Types of Personal Injuries Are Included?
Personal injury claims that may fall under the Georgia statute of limitations can greatly range depending on the unique situation and the extent of the damage. Personal injury may refer to mental or physical injuries that are caused by another person’s negligence. Some injuries are minor, allowing the victim to recover with the right treatment. Others are so severe that they may lead to death. The cause of a personal injury may include, but is not limited to, automobile accidents, trucking accidents, boating accidents, motorcycle accidents, railroad accidents, medical malpractice, dog bites, nursing home abuse, sexual abuse, or slip-and-fall accidents.
If you wish to recover money damages for a personal injury claim, Georgia law requires that you prove that the other party was negligent. To prove this claim, you must show that the party caused your injuries and they had a responsibility not to injure you and did not live up to this expectation. You must also show that there is a connection between your injury and the other party’s responsibility. Finally, you must show that you suffered a financial loss or other damages as a result of the accident.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Like most other states, Georgia has a strict time frame that accident victims must adhere to when filing a personal injury claim in civil court. If you were involved in a medical malpractice case, a slip and fall accident, a auto accident, or some other scenario in which an injury occurred, you may want to seek the guidance of an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer can help you create a case if you are within the statute of limitations, or seek an extension of the statute of limitations if your case is eligible. Ultimately, whether your case is viable under the statute of limitations is a question that can be answered only after consultation with a lawyer, not a blog post. For more information, contact The Dixon Firm today.