Georgia Court Finds Prosecution of a Traffic Citation Tolls Statute of Limitations

If you are involved in a car accident in Georgia, any personal injury lawsuit to recover damages must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. The argument that a claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations can be refuted by evidence that the statute has been tolled.

In a recent case, the court of Appeals of Georgia held that the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit following a car accident was tolled by the state’s prosecution for a traffic citation issued in the accident. If you sustained injuries or property damages in a car accident, it is in your best interest to consult a Georgia car accident attorney as soon as possible to protect your right to pursue compensation from the responsible party.

Facts Surrounding the Car Accident

Allegedly, on October 16, 2014, the plaintiff and the defendant were driving on a Georgia highway when they were involved in a collision. The responding police officer issued a traffic citation to Defendant for following the plaintiff too closely. The citation indicated November 18, 2014 as the date the defendant could contest the citation in Municipal Court. The defendant paid the citation on October 27, 2014, and on November 18, 2014 the Municipal Court issued a bond forfeiture.

Lawsuit Filed by Plaintiff

Reportedly, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant on November 10, 2016. The defendant subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing the plaintiff’s suit was barred by the two-year statute of limitations set forth by OGCA 9-3-33, the Georgia law setting forth the time limits for filing personal injury lawsuits. The defendant further argued that even if the prosecution of the traffic citation tolled the statute of limitations, the prosecution ended on October 27, 2014 when she paid the citation, and therefore the plaintiff’s claim was still untimely. The trial court agreed, granting the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff appealed.

Tolling of the Statute of Limitations

On appeal, the court noted that while the statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims in Georgia is two years, OGCA 9-3-99 allowed the limitations period to be tolled where there are pending criminal charges arising out of the same factual scenario. The statute is told from the date of the crime until the prosecution of the crime is final or ends in some other manner. The court stated that OGCA 9-3-99 applies to civil actions arising out of car accidents. Therefore, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit after a car accident is tolled until the prosecution for any traffic violation that occurred during the accident is no longer pending.

Here, the plaintiff produced evidence that the resolution of the traffic violation was pending in municipal court until November 18, 2014, the date the forfeiture bond was issued. Specifically, a copy of the citation listed the disposition date as November 18, 2014, and the action disposing of the case as the bond forfeiture. As such, the court found that the prosecution of the traffic citation was pending until the date the defendant’s bond was forfeited and reversed the trial court’s judgment.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Georgia Car Accident Attorney

If you were injured in a car accident and wish to seek compensation for your injuries, it is important to act in a timely manner. Otherwise, you may waive your right to recover damages. The knowledgeable car accident attorneys of Scholle Law have substantial experience handling car accident cases and will work tirelessly to help you in your pursuit of damages. Contact us at 770-717-5100 to set up a free and confidential meeting.

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