December 19, 2019
Pitts Carr and Alex Weatherby
What is the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in Georgia?
The personal injury statute of limitations in Georgia is generally two years from the date of the accident. This means that a claim must be filed two years from the date of the accident itself. If a tractor trailer accident occurred on August 2, 2019, for example, then the injured person has until August 1, 2021 to file suit. The two year statute of limitations applies to most personal injury claims. This includes those arising out of a bike accident, bus accident, truck accident, pedestrian accident, motorcycle accident, medical malpractice, shooting, wrongful death, spinal cord, brain injury, or burn injury case.
As a general rule, a lawsuit should never be filed that close to the statute of limitations. This is because, there may be issues with locating the defendant or serving the defendant with the lawsuit. A substantial delay in service may result in a timely filed lawsuit being barred by the statute of limitations. Our rule of thumb is to file a lawsuit at the earliest opportunity to present a good case. It is rare if we file a lawsuit less than 6 months before the statute of limitations expires.
There are some exceptions to the personal injury statute of limitations in Georgia. First, there is an extension for lawsuits related to the commission of a crime. The statute of limitations is extended for the same period that the criminal prosecution or criminal investigation is pending. This means that where the personal injury resulted from a criminal act, the injured party may have additional time to file their claim. This includes a crime resulting from a car accident or truck accident. For example, if the tractor trailer accident resulted in a DUI charge for the truck driver, then the statute of limitations would be extended during the time period that the DUI investigation and prosecution was pending.
Second, the statute of limitations may be extended for fraud. This only extends the time period to file a lawsuit, when the fraud prevented the injured party from filing the lawsuit. In other words, there needs to be some fraudulent act that kept the injured party from filing a lawsuit. A simple allegations of fraud is not sufficient to pause or “toll” the statute of limitations.
Third, the statute of limitations is extended for a minor until they reach the age of majority (age 18). A person should not wait around this long to file suit, however, as there are other rules that could come into play and bar a claim.
Fourth, the statute of limitations is extended for folks who are mentally incompetent. This is a high standard. The person must be so mentally unsound that they are incapable of carrying out ordinary life affairs or filing a lawsuit. Having a mental disability is not enough. Being diagnosed with a mental illness is not enough. There must be incompetence to such a degree that the person is incapable of making decisions for themselves.
Navigating the statute of limitations can be a challenge. We know the ins and outs of statute of limitations in Georgia. At our firm, we are experienced lawyers based in Atlanta, and we service all of Georgia.