If you have suffered a personal injury and think you may be able to make a claim against the person or entity responsible, it is imperative that you be aware of the statute of limitations for your claim. The statute of limitations is the time limit that a person has to make a claim. If a claim is not made within this time limit, it will be barred. There is a statute of limitations for virtually every type of claim under both federal and state law in the United States. In Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years under the Official Code of Georgia Title 9 Section 3 Article 33.
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is one reason that victims should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible following personal injury. It takes time to properly investigate a case and prepare a claim. It is always a tragedy when a personal injury victim fails to get compensation they deserve because they filed a claim too late. If you have suffered a personal injury and would like to find out more about your legal rights and options, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, right away so that we can investigate your case by calling (404) 389-1035.
The Rationale Behind the Statute of Limitations
It may seem unfair to prevent an injury victim from getting the compensation they deserve just because they waited too long before bringing their claim. But there are a couple of very good reasons that statutes of limitations exists. The first is that it is unfair to expect people to defend against claims arising out of conduct that occurred in the distant past. Statutes of limitations are intended to prevent lawsuits against people that may not even remember the incident they are being sued for. Another important rationale for statutes of limitations is that they encourages victims to file lawsuits when evidence is still fresh, which makes the work of sorting out liability much easier on the court system. Statutes of limitations have been around almost as long as the western legal tradition, and were incorporated into the laws in America before the United States was formed.
Official Code of Georgia Title 9 Section 3 Article 33
O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33 states, “actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues.” Generally, an action “accrues” at the moment that a victim knows that they have been injured by the defendant’s conduct. In most personal injury cases, this means that the two-year limitations period begins as soon as the defendant’s negligent conduct causes an accident to occur.
However, in some cases an action may not accrue until months or even years later. This can happen either because a person does not realize they have been injured right away, or because they do not know that their injury was caused by the defendant. An example to illustrate both of these situations is when a person is harmed by a toxic substance or a defective pharmaceutical drug. In such a case, the victim may not feel symptoms from the harm they suffered until many days, weeks, or even months later. And, after they feel the symptoms, it would require additional investigation for them to discover the cause of their negative reaction or illness. Their claim will therefore not accrue, and the two-year time limit to file their claim will not begin to run, until they are aware or should be aware of the cause of their harm.
Statutes of Limitations for Specific Claims
There are a few types of personal injury claims that are governed by special statutes of limitations. These include:
- Wrongful death claims, medical malpractice claims, and product liability claims, which all have a two-year statute of limitations under Georgia law.
- Workers’ compensation claims, which have only a one-year statute of limitations.
- Claims for property damage, which have a four-year statute of limitations.
Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
Under Georgia law, the statute of limitations does not run, or is tolled, in certain cases. The Official Code of Georgia Title 9 Chapter 3 Article 5 establishes several instances in which the time limit to file a claim under a statute of limitations is put on pause. For instance, if a person is legally incompetent prior to or following an accident, the statute of limitations will be tolled until they regain legal competence, and a claim held by a child is also tolled until the child reaches the age of 18. However, in these cases, a parent or guardian may be able to make the claim on behalf of a child or incompetent person.
Statute of Repose
Georgia also has enacted several statutes of repose for certain types of claims. A statute of repose completely bars a claim from being made after a certain number of years. Statutes of repose and statutes of limitations may seem like the same thing, but they actually function very differently. A statute of limitations holds that a person may no longer make a claim because they have waited too long. An otherwise valid claim can be barred by the statute of limitations. A statute of repose does not simply bar a claim from being made. Rather, a statute of repose declares that any existing claim is extinguished, as though it never existed, after the statutory time limit has been reached.
This difference is significant, because when a statute of limitations has passed, a plaintiff will still have the ability to argue that they should be able to bring their claim, for instance, because the time has been tolled. When a statute of repose has run its course, a plaintiff does not have the right to make any argument that they should still be able to make their claim, because their claim simply does not exist anymore.
Another key difference is that a statute of limitations begins, as discussed, when a claim accrues. A statute of repose, on the other hand, begins to run as soon as the tortious conduct occurred, regardless of whether the victim was aware of what happened at the time.
Product liability claims are extinguished by a statute of repose 10 years after a product was sold, and medical malpractice claims are extinguished by a statute of repose 5 years after the incident of malpractice occurred.
For More Information, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, Today
If you have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence or wrongful conduct of someone else, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, right away. Based out of in Kennesaw, Georgia, the experienced personal injury legal team at Joel Williams Law, LLC, works hard to get justice for injury victims throughout the State of Georgia in both state and federal courts. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (404) 389-1035.