Every insurance company sets deadlines for filing motorcycle accident claims. But that’s not the only deadline to remember if you were hurt in a motorcycle crash in Georgia. In most cases, Georgia accident victims have two years from the accident date to file a suit. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. It’s essential to act before the statute of limitations expires. Waiting too long could affect your ability to recover the compensation you need.
At Butler Kahn, our Georgia motorcycle accident lawyers can manage your case and timely file your claims within the limitations period set by state law. Here’s information about the statute of limitations in Georgia motorcycle accident cases, why it exists, and how an attorney can help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim After a Motorcycle Accident?
Georgia Code § 9-3-33 gives you two years from the date of a motorcycle accident to file a lawsuit against any at-fault parties. But depending on the specific circumstances of your case, your timeline could be even shorter.
How Common Are Motorcycle Accidents?
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Crash Data Dashboard, there were 3,821 motorcycle accidents statewide in one recent year. These crashes led to 3,189 injuries and 193 deaths. By comparison, there were 331,710 total traffic accidents that year, leading to 135,751 injuries and 1,825 fatalities. That means while motorcycle crashes only made up about one percent of all Georgia motor vehicle accidents, they accounted for more than two percent of all traffic injuries and nearly 11 percent of all traffic deaths.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
Common causes of Georgia motorcycle accidents include:
- Impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Drivers following too closely behind motorcycles
- Failure to yield the right-of-way
- Aggressive driving
- Failure to check blind spots
- Dooring accidents, where motorists open their car doors into a motorcyclist’s path without checking
- Mechanical defects
- Poor weather or road conditions
What is the Purpose of the Statute of Limitations?
Many motorcycle accident victims wonder why there is a time limit to demand compensation for their injuries. After all, there is no limit to how long the consequences of a motorcycle accident can affect their lives. Georgia implements statutes of limitations on personal injury cases for three reasons:
- Preserving evidence – Setting a time limit to file a personal injury lawsuit forces plaintiffs to act quickly and preserve crucial evidence after an accident. Evidence deteriorates, and memories fade over time, making it harder to prove the case or reach a fair outcome.
- Limiting the number of civil court cases – An excessive number of cases can create backlogs in the courts, leading to long waits and preventing plaintiffs and defendants from getting a timely resolution. A statute of limitations helps keep the system from breaking down.
- Protecting defendants from frivolous suits – In most cases, expecting someone to defend themselves against allegations related to events in the distant past is unfair. A statute of limitations protects defendants from unreasonable lawsuits by plaintiffs with weak cases.
Can the Filing Deadline be Extended?
While two years is the usual deadline for filing a Georgia motorcycle accident lawsuit, there are some cases where you have more time. These exceptions include:
- The discovery rule – In some circumstances, you can extend the deadline in a personal injury case if you did not discover your injuries right away. In these cases, the two-year deadline applies from when you discovered (or reasonably should have discovered) the injury.
- Cases involving minors – Minors cannot bring cases on their own. If someone under age 18 gets hurt in a motorcycle accident, the two-year deadline applies to them starting on their 18th birthday rather than on the date of the crash.
- The defendant leaves the state – If the defendant in a Georgia motorcycle accident case is out-of-state, the time they spent outside the state generally does not count toward the two-year statute of limitations.
- Cases involving plaintiffs with mental disabilities – If someone has a mental disability or has been declared legally incompetent due to mental illness, the two-year countdown starts when their disability ends or they are deemed legally competent.
- Cases involving fraud or deception – If a defendant’s fraudulent actions prevented you from filing a lawsuit, the two-year deadline starts when you discovered that fraud.
What Happens If I Do Not File Before the Deadline Passes?
If you attempt to file a motorcycle accident lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the defendant can move to dismiss the case as untimely. The judge will likely agree to this motion, and you lose the chance to pursue compensation in court.
The statute of limitations applies only to lawsuits, not insurance claims. Still, the ability to file suit is good leverage if an insurance company will not pay your claim or refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer. Without this leverage or a motorcycle accident lawyer to argue for your best interests, you risk recovering the full compensation you deserve.
What Should I Do After a Motorcycle Accident?
Take as many of the following steps as possible after a motorcycle accident:
- Call 911 – Most insurance companies will want a police accident report when you file a claim. Reporting the crash to law enforcement will summon them to the scene immediately so they can conduct their investigation.
- Document the crash – Take pictures of your injuries, the damage to any vehicles involved in the collision, and any noticeable hazards in the area. The more physical evidence you have to support your claim, the stronger it will be.
- Look for eyewitnesses – Witness statements are valuable evidence in motorcycle accident cases because they are impartial accounts.
- Talk to the other driver – Ask the motorist who hit you for their name, address, driver’s license number, vehicle registration number, license plate number, and insurance information.
- Seek medical attention immediately – Go to an emergency care facility if you are not transported to the hospital straight from the accident scene. Your injuries could worsen if you wait too long to seek medical attention. The insurer might also claim the injuries are unrelated to the accident or that you are responsible for them.
- Save all your medical records – Your medical records are critical evidence in a personal injury case, so make copies of everything and keep them safe.
- Hire a motorcycle accident lawyer – A motorcycle accident attorney can handle all the legal work in your case while you focus on your medical treatment. Don’t leave your financial recovery to chance by trying to handle your case yourself.
- Do not make statements to insurance companies – Insurers look for anything they can use to deny your claim or minimize your payout. Rather than give them the ammunition they need, refer them to your attorney.
Contact a Georgia Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
The Georgia motorcycle accident attorneys at Butler Kahn can help you pursue the money you need after a crash that wasn’t your fault. Contact us for a free consultation with an experienced and compassionate lawyer.