The law imposes time restrictions, so defendants do not have to live in fear of being sued forever. Time limits are also helpful because they force plaintiffs to file a case when memories and evidence are fresh. It is much easier to gather facts and evidence right after an accident occurred than years later. These time limits are often referred to as “statutes of limitations.”
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Georgia
Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. That means you must file your claim within two years for it to be legally valid. If you do not file your claim within this time frame, your lawsuit will likely be dismissed.
Personal property damage has a four-year statute of limitations. Personal property damage claims are often asserted at the same time as a personal injury claim.
Keep in mind that personal injury claims can include:
- Vehicle accidents
- Slip-and-fall situations
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicyclist accidents
- Product liability (when a product causes harm)
- Medical malpractice
For most situations, the statute of limitations will start to run as soon as you are injured. However, sometimes you may not realize you are injured until long after an accident. For example, if you are exposed to toxic chemicals, you may not show become ill until months or years later. Because of situations like these, the statute of limitations clock often does not start until the victim discovered the injury. That is, you have to actually know and understand that you were injured before the statute of limitations will start. This rule is commonly referred to as the “discovery rule.”
Statute of Limitations Tolling
The statute of limitations can be “tolled” under certain circumstances. Essentially, this means the time limit pauses due to unique facts of the case. For example, if a child is harmed in a car accident, that child may have a right to assert a personal injury case, but he or she cannot do so until age 18. In that situation, the statute of limitations pauses until the child becomes 18.
The statute of limitations may also be tolled when the individual is incompetent or mentally incapacitated.
Certain claims may have other restrictions. For example, medical malpractice claims have what is commonly called a statute of repose. Under this rule, there is not only a statute of limitations, there is a cutoff point from the date of the injury, regardless of the tolling of the statute of limitations or the discovery rule. In Georgia, the statute of repose for medical malpractice claims is five years, even though the statute of limitations is only two years. That means you cannot file a medical malpractice claim in Georgia once five years have passed since the incident, regardless of when you realized you were harmed.
As a rule, it is best to file a personal injury claim in Georgia as soon as practical after an accident to avoid problems with the various timeline restrictions. Call Joel Williams Law, LLC at 404-389-1035 for more information or to schedule a free consultation.