Wondering how long you have to sue after a car accident, slip and fall, wrongful death or another personal injury claim?
Learn what important deadlines you need to know about in Atlanta, Georgia.
As the saying goes, time waits for no one… and that’s even true in the court system. All states have deadlines that judges, lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants must obey. These deadlines are known as the “statute of limitations,” and they determine the time period for how long you have to file a lawsuit. This time period differs according to whether it’s a civil claim or criminal charge.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for civil cases such as car accidents, wrongful death and other personal injury claims is typically 2 years from the date of the injury or death. You must file a claim with the court by the statute of limitations date or your case is forever void. This deadline applies to almost all types of personal injury lawsuits in Georgia based on negligence or intentional torts.
At Scholle Law, our team of Atlanta attorneys has decades of experience fighting for justice, even after the passage of months or years from when your accident occurred. We are able to review your case from all angles and find the best course of action for you and your loved ones. Reach out to start a dialogue with a legal representative today – your first consultation is free. Let us help you discover if you have a case and how to best move forward within the legal system to pursue your goals.
Georgia civil statute of limitations
|Type of claim||Deadline||Statute|
|Car, truck or motorcycle accident||2 years||§9-3-33|
|Personal injury||2 years||§9-3-33|
|Product liability (defective product)||2 years||§9-3-33|
|Wrongful death||2 years||§9-3-33|
|Libel or slander||1 year||§9-3-33|
|Property damage||4 years||§9-3-32|
|Medical malpractice||2 years (maximum of 5 years)||§9-3-71|
|Legal malpractice||4 years||§ 9-3-25|
|Breach of contract||6 years (written)
4 years (oral)
|False imprisonment||2 years||§ 9-3-33|
|Assault & battery||2 years||§ 9-3-33|
Exceptions to the statute of limitations (tolling)
Although the statute of limitations is rigid and unwavering in a majority of cases, there are a few (though rare) exceptions that can limit or extend this deadline.
“Tolling”, which refers to extensions of the statute of limitations, can occur for mental incapacity, minority age (if the injured person was a minor, or under the age of 18) or fraud. The statute of limitations may also be extended if an injury, medical problem or product defect could not have been reasonably “discovered” within the statute of limitations.
Another scenario when the statute of limitations may be tolled is if the defendant leaves the state after the accident, but before the plaintiff has had a chance to file a lawsuit and serve the defendant. In this case, the deadline will likely be paused until the defendant “returns to reside” in Georgia.
In addition, Georgia recognizes a 5-year statute of repose for medical negligence claims, and a 10-year statute of repose applies from the date of manufacture for strict liability claims.
Georgia’s statute of limitations for civil cases
Georgia’s legal code (Section 9-3-33) specifically states the deadline for personal injury claims in the Peach State:
“Actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues, except for injuries to the reputation, which shall be brought within one year after the right of action accrues, and except for actions for injuries to the person involving loss of consortium, which shall be brought within four years after the right of action accrues.”
This section of law is entitled “Injuries to the person; injuries to reputation; loss of consortium” – but what does that last bit mean?
“Loss of consortium” references any claims your spouse could bring against a person or business following your injuries for any adverse changes to your marriage, such as loss of companionship or loss of care. A spouse has an extra 2 years to file such a claim, bringing the total amount of time in which to file a claim up to 4 years.
Similarly, the Georgia statute of limitations for medical malpractice has been written such that a person injured by a medical professional has 2 years to file a lawsuit from the date of death or injury. There is also a Statute of Repose involving medical malpractice that allows for a lawsuit up to 5 years after the incident that created your injury.
An example of this type of situation is if a patient is given medication for an ailment, which over time causes them to develop a terminal side effect like cancer. If the discovery of the cancer occurs 6 years after the doctor first prescribed the medication, the patient is unable to sue due to the Statute of Repose.
Deadlines for suing a government agency
Irrespective of the statute of limitations, there are other deadlines that can invalidate your case. For instance, many government bodies are entitled to 6 or 12-month “ante litem notice” deadlines. A claimant must send notice to a government entity responsible for their injury by this deadline or else they will forever lose the right to bring a claim.
Little-known rules such as these can greatly impact your potential case, and even small towns and counties operate under it. This means that if you’re involved in a crash with a city or county-owned vehicle or truck, you may only have 6 months to file a notice of legal action against the offending party – so time is of the essence.
In addition, government entities must be notified of the claim in a specific way. The notice requirements mean that sufficient information and details about the case must be given over to either the government entity’s legal counsel or to town/city/county officials, such as a mayor or spokesperson. At each level of government representation, there are different rules that dictate how long you have to file a claim and how the claim must be presented to the offending government entity.
If your legal action involves a government employee, it’s important to talk with an attorney as soon as possible to avoid missing the ante litem notice deadline.
Don’t delay in speaking with a personal injury lawyer near you
Once the statute of limitations has expired, your claim is void — no matter how strong a case you have. Courts rarely forgive a failure to file suit by the statute of limitations deadline. Because of this, most attorneys will not accept cases that are within 6 months of the statute of limitations date. Most attorneys don’t want to be responsible for investigating, drafting, filing suit and serving defendants on such short notice because if something goes wrong, that attorney could be sued for legal malpractice.
Georgia courts are very unforgiving on the statute of limitations deadlines, and the rules are very complicated.
Accordingly, it’s vital you speak to an attorney about your case sooner rather than later. Statutes of limitations are enacted because legislatures understand that evidence is lost, memories fade over time and worthwhile cases should be pursued with zeal. In this framework, a lawyer can do a more competent, professional job for a client if he or she has ample time to secure evidence and formulate the best strategy.
If you or a loved one were injured due to the actions or negligence of another person, company or entity in Georgia, or were involved in an accident with a government employee, speak with an attorney immediately.
Why contact our Atlanta personal injury law firm?
For over 20 years, Atlanta personal injury attorney Charles Scholle and his staff at Scholle Law have worked closely with clients to assist them in all aspects of their recovery. Whether you have sustained a catastrophic injury in a car accident or soft tissue injury that heals more quickly, you receive the same personal attention that all our clients receive.
We do things differently than most law firms, starting by keeping our clients informed of major developments in their case. We also stand committed to not operating a high-volume practice where our clients feel like just a case number rather than a real person with a story and important needs. Your well-being and recovery matter to us and it shows – just read what our clients have to say about our representation.