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How long do I have to bring a wrongful death case?

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Most of the time, the answer is two years. That is because the deadline established by the “statute of limitation” for personal injury usually applies to wrongful death cases. See O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.

However, the applicable deadline could be shorter or longer, depending on the facts. If the deceased died because of something that a government entity did wrong—for instance, if the deceased was killed in a car accident with an employee of the state of Georgia—then a special, additional, earlier deadline known as an “ante litem” deadline could apply.  The exact deadline depends on whether the at-fault government entity is a state, county, or city, but the deadline could be six months or a year.

There are cases in which the deadline to bring a wrongful death case is longer than two years. For instance, if one of the people at fault for the death was charged with a crime—or could have been charged with a crime—then the statute of limitation may be “tolled” (i.e., paused) until that prosecution is complete, for a maximum of six years. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99; Harrison v. McAfee, 338 Ga. App. 393 (2016). After the criminal prosecution is complete or six years have passed, then the two-year clock for bringing a wrongful death starts ticking again.


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