In Georgia, as in every state, if you’re thinking about making a personal injury claim after an accident, it’s crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your potential case. To translate the “legalese,” a “statute of limitations” is just a law that puts a strict time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in civil court. Every state has these kinds of laws on the books, usually with different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.
For Georgia personal injury claimants, the relevant statute of limitations can be found at Georgia Code section 9-3-33. This law says “Actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues.”
In other words, if you were hurt in a vehicle accident, in a dog bite incident, in a slip and fall, or in almost any other situation where someone else's carelessness played a role in injuring you, you have two years to get your lawsuit filed, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the underlying incident. (Learn more about How and When to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit.)
If you don't get your personal injury lawsuit started before Georgia’s two-year window closes, it is a near-certainty that the person you are trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss your lawsuit, and the court will almost surely okay the request. If that happens, your case is over, and you’re left with no way to hold the other party responsible for your injuries and other losses.
Exceptions to the Running of the Statute of Limitations “Clock” in Georgia
It's important to note that the filing deadline is not absolute. There are some rare instances where the running of the “clock” can be paused or “tolled” in Georgia, meaning that the filing deadline is extended beyond two years. For example:
- Where the person bringing the lawsuit was a minor or was “legally incompetent because of intellectual disability or mental illness” at the time of the underlying accident, the two year “clock” doesn’t start to run until the person turns 18, or until the period of incompetence is declared over.
- If the defendant (the person being sued) leaves the state of Georgia for part of the two-year period, the amount of time he or she was out-of-state probably won’t be counted as part of the two years.
Those are just two examples. If you have specific questions about extending the statute of limitations deadline in Georgia, an experienced personal injury attorney will have the answers.
Even if you doubt that you're going to file a personal injury lawsuit over your accident, it's still important to keep the statute of limitations deadline in mind. If you don't get the insurance claim process started right away, or if the other side is dragging its heels, two years can pass by pretty quickly. You always want to make sure you have the option of taking your case to court. Lose that option, and you lose your negotiating leverage. (Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling an Injury Claim.)
For more personalized information on the Georgia personal injury statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation, contact an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer.