Understanding the Statute of Limitations and Your Personal Injury Case

You might be able to file a lawsuit against another person who causes you to be injured.

However, the time to file a lawsuit is limited by Georgia’s Statutes of Limitations. If you do not act quickly, you could lose your right to file a lawsuit demanding money for your personal injury case.

All types of personal injury cases are subject to statutes of limitations. Motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice claims, wrongful death claims, product liability claims, and premises liability claims are just a few of the examples of cases where a statute of limitations will apply.

If another party injured you, you can assume that your time to file a lawsuit is restricted by law.

For that reason, it is often critically important to contact an attorney and begin to discuss what legal options might be available to you at this time. You don’t want to miss out on compensation you deserve because you take too long to spring into action.

Why Does Georgia Have Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases?

There are many reasons why statutes of limitations exist. Some reasons legislators enacted statutes of limitations for personal injury cases include:

  • Encourages victims to litigate matters before the memories of witnesses begin to fade
  • Prevents defendants from being in a position of defending a claim after evidence might have disappeared or deteriorated
  • Forces a plaintiff to resolve disputes timely 
  • Statutes of limitations also help prevent courts from being overloaded with cases 
personal injuries

All states, including Georgia, have statutes of limitations for most causes of action. The deadlines for filing lawsuits vary by state. The deadlines also vary by type of case.

Therefore, it is wise to talk with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an injury.

Your personal injury attorney calculates the deadlines for filing claims and lawsuits in your case. The attorney monitors these deadlines throughout your case to protect your right to pursue legal remedies for a personal injury claim. 

What Happens if You Miss the Deadline to File a Lawsuit?

If you do not file your personal injury lawsuit before the deadline set by the statute of limitations, a defendant files a motion requesting to dismiss the case.

Unless there is a legal exception to the deadline for filing the lawsuit, the judge will likely grant the defendant’s motion and dismiss your lawsuit.

Because you cannot file a lawsuit seeking damages for your injury claim, you do not have any leverage to force the party responsible for your injury to compensate you for your injuries and damages. The at-fault party escapes liability because you missed the deadline to file a lawsuit.

Deadlines for Filing Lawsuits in Personal Injury Cases in Georgia 

lawsuit

Most personal injury lawsuits filed in Georgia are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. The deadline begins to run from the date of the victim’s injury or death. That means that a rider injured in a motorcycle accident has two years from the motorcycle crash date to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Likewise, the victim of a dog attack has two years after the attack to file a lawsuit.

Are There Exceptions to the Statutes of Limitations?

Yes, there are exceptions to the general statute of limitations for most personal injury cases. 

medical malpractice

A Statute of Repose applies in some medical malpractice cases. A victim could have up to five years after the incident that caused the injury to file a medical malpractice claim. The Statute of Repose applies when the victim did not discover that an injury or adverse condition was caused by malpractice within two years. 

The deadline for filing claims regarding the loss of consortium is four years after the date of injury.

A victim’s spouse can file a loss of consortium for the adverse consequences for the marriage caused by a spouse’s injury. Loss of consortium claims include the loss of intimacy, love, affection, support, guidance, and society. 

Lawsuits against government entities have special rules. Even though a victim has two years to file a lawsuit against the government, the victim must follow the rules for filing notices of claims. A notice of claim preserves the right to file a lawsuit.

Failing to file the notice of claim with the government entity bars the victim from filing a lawsuit.

The notice of claim must meet the requirements in the code. The deadline for filing a notice of claim with a government entity could be as short as six months after the accident. 

If your personal injury case involves a government vehicle or occurs on government property, you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer. 

If workers’ compensation insurance covers an injury, the worker has one year from the date of injury or the date the injury or condition was discovered to file a workers’ compensation claim

Tolling of the Statute of Limitations 

In some cases, the statute of limitations is “tolled.” Tolling means delaying when the time begins for the statute of limitations.

If a child is injured in an accident, the minor has until he or she is 18 years of age before the statute of limitations begins to run. Therefore, the minor would have until his or her 20th birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit. The deadline for filing personal injury lawsuits is delayed for an incapacitated person until the person is declared competent to file a legal action.

In some cases, a person might have additional time to file a personal injury lawsuit if the person did not discover the injury within two years from the incident that caused the injury. This exception is called the “Discovery Rule.” However, the court will need to allow the personal injury lawsuit to proceed after a hearing if the defendant requests a dismissal of the lawsuit based on the expiration of the statute of limitations. 

The statute of limitations may also be tolled if the at-fault party leaves Georgia. The statute starts again when the person returns to the state.

Should I Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer About My Case if the Injury Occurred Years Ago?

If you never filed a claim for your injury or accident, contact a lawyer to discuss your legal options for seeking compensation for your damages. The facts and circumstances in your case could result in an exemption from the two-year statute of limitations. 

After a careful review, the attorney determines the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, the attorney might suggest filing the lawsuit because there is sufficient evidence and legal grounds for an exception to the statute of limitations. However, you cannot know for sure until you meet with a lawyer to discuss your case.