Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Georgia
It’s crucial to know how long you have before your rights disappear forever. Every state has a restricted time period in which you must file and serve your personal injury case. In Georgia, as a general rule, a person has two years to file a personal injury case. There are of course exceptions to this general rule. For example, if the injury is caused by the state, county, city, or municipality, you cannot wait two years as you must send an ante-litem notice within a certain number of months of the injury.
Tolling of the Statute
While two years is the general rule, there are numerous exceptions. Additionally, the two-year “timer” may be “tolled” which means that the time you have to bring your case may actually be more than two years which of course means you have more time.
Two of the more common situations where a statute of limitations could be tolled are when the injury is:
- to a minor—a person who is under the age of 18—in which case the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor turns 18, and
- when a crime has taken place.
One important case that addresses the meaning of “crime” is from 2009 in the case of Beneke v. Parker, 285 Ga. 733 (2009). That case says a “crime” includes a traffic violation. Including a traffic citation within the definition of a crime means that the statute of limitations is extended beyond the date of the accident.
O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99 is an important statute that addresses tolling. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99 holds that the running of the statute of limitations with respect to any cause of action in tort that may be brought by the victim of an alleged crime which arises out of the facts and circumstances relating to the commission of such alleged crime is tolled from the date of the commission of the crime or the act giving rise to such action in tort until the prosecution of such crime or act has become final or otherwise terminated, provided that such time does not exceed six years. This statute is a very important piece of legislation as it gives victims more time to file. Often sexual assault victims don’t feel ready to come forward until years after the attack. This statute is intended to help and protect those victims.
In 2016 the Georgia Court of Appeals decided Harrison v. McAfee, 338 Ga. App. 393 (2016). There, the Court expanded the tolling provisions and held that nothing in O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99 limited its application to cases against known criminal perpetrators. The Court held that the statute applies to “any” cause of action that “arises out of the facts and circumstances relating to the commission of such alleged crime.”
Starting the Case
Keep in mind that just because the statute of limitations can be tolled does not mean that victims should wait to pursue their case. Gathering evidence and talking with witnesses is very important and as more time passes evidence can get lost and witnesses may forget.
Also, it is important to remember that the two-year statute of limitations does not apply to every case or to every fact situation. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33, titled “Injuries to the person”, holds that if the damages suffered are only to a person’s reputation then the individual has only one year to file a claim. The statute also holds that if the personal injury results in a person enduring a loss of consortium (the inability to have normal marital relations which includes many areas beyond just sexual relations), the statute of limitations is four years.
Other cases outside of personal injury have different statutes so it is very important that victims consult with a lawyer as quickly as possible after the event.
An experienced personal injury lawyer in Atlanta can discuss with you the intricacies of the statute of limitations as it relates to your injury.