Is there a deadline for car, truck and motorcycle accidents in Georgia?
Our Georgia auto accident lawyers receive calls weekly from prospective clients asking for help with their injury claim. Too often, the intake specialist finds out that the injured person has waited too late. The statute of limitations has tolled, and they are barred from recovery.
How does this happen? Aren’t we all allowed to seek recovery for the damaged caused by another’s negligence?
The short answer is, yes.
The longer answer is that we are permitted to seek recovery for damages caused by another within the parameters set forth by the law. Those parameters, in part, involve limitations on the amount of time you have to respond to an accident caused by another’s negligence.
In this article we will arm you with some basic knowledge about the statute of limitations for Georgia auto accidents.
Georgia statute of limitations: the basics
In Georgia, the law grants a limited amount of time for one to resolve their injury claim with an at-fault party (or their insurance carrier). Each state has its own set of rules. For example, North Carolina has a 3-year statute of limitations. Tennessee allows only 1 year.
In Georgia, you have 2 years from the date of the incident to resolve your claim for injuries that were caused by another’s negligence. If the 2-year mark passes with no resolution, you are not allowed to press the matter any further. In simple terms, fair or not, your claim is over.
Exceptions to the deadline
On rare occasions, an auto injury accident may include circumstances that could merit an exception to Georgia’s 2-year rule. In auto accidents where the injured victim experiences an extended loss of consciousness or extreme cognitive diminishment, it is possible that the courts may grant an extension under these extreme circumstances.
Extensions are infrequent, to say the least. You should never assume your case qualifies. When in doubt, seek legal counsel.
What if I need more time?
Thankfully, there is a way to extend the time needed to resolve your claim. Filing a lawsuit extends the statute. If a lawsuit is filed before the statute runs, you have saved your case. Most times, this is done in the context of already having legal representation. Moreover, it’s not an uncommon legal maneuver.
Lots of things can cause an injury case to get “too close for comfort” as the statute of limitations approaches. Treatment for severe injuries can extend well past one and a half years resulting in only 4 to 6 months left before the statute tolls. In such a case, filing suit isn’t so much about being litigious as it is about not losing the claim.
If you find yourself needing to file suit to save the statute, you never want to wait until the 11th hour to do so. A good rule of thumb is to begin keeping a diary to examine the status of all things in your claim about 8 months before the statute tolls. If the case can be resolved within the next month or 2, that is fine. But if you find yourself having 6 months or less to resolve the matter, then you probably need to seek legal counsel immediately.
It is essential to understand that filing a lawsuit entails more than merely filling out a form at a courthouse. Time is needed to ensure there are no problems with perfecting service on the defendant. Also, it’s not the mere filing of a lawsuit that saves the statute. Instead, it is the perfection of service on the defendant in the context of a filed lawsuit that keeps the statute from tolling on the claim.
Be a clock watcher
Auto accident claims take time to come to fruition. First, you have to conclude your treatment for all accident-related injuries. After that, you will need to provide to the insurance adjuster a list of all treatment facilitates that treated you for your injuries. Once the adjuster has this list, they will then order all medical records and corresponding bills. This can take upwards of 30 to 60 days to receive.
Obtaining medical records takes time, too. The process of ordering records doesn’t always go as planned. Third-party vendors that supply medical records when ordered from providers can sometimes fail to respond or even acknowledge a submitted request. Vendor changes happen with no announcement, causing snags and difficulties when records are ordered. Usually there are only a few delays when records are ordered. But when major delays do occur, it’s essential to always remember how much time you have left on your claim.
It is reasonable to allow your adjuster a chance to obtain the medical records. However, if you find yourself creeping closer and closer toward the statute of limitations with no indication that your adjuster even has all the records, you may be best served by obtaining legal representation. Remember, the clock is ticking.
In addition, evaluation of your claim takes time. Once the adjuster has all of your records, then and only then are they in a position to begin a full assessment of your injury claim. This is going to take time. The adjuster’s desk is manifest triage at its best. Admittedly, this isn’t your problem, but it’s important to realize how it might impact your claim. Give the adjuster a fair chance to get to your claim.
On this note, we have some input for you on how to manage this section of the claim.
How to pressure the insurer to proceed with your auto accident claim
Have the adjuster set an expectation on when you should hear back from them.
Next, follow up all conversations with a confirmation email thanking them for their help and also mentioning the time they said they would get back to you. Your email becomes part of their file and is also a paper trail. In cases of unmet expectations by the adjuster, this paper trail can be used to show their manager how they repeatedly failed to do so. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to take the next step.
After you have given the adjuster a fair chance to evaluate your claim in a timely manner, you should become more sensitive regarding how much time is left to resolve your claim. Keep in mind the time frames we have already discussed and start pressing the adjuster and/or their manager weekly, if necessary. In extreme cases, you may need to follow up every 2 to 3 days.
If you don’t hear back from the adjuster, continue to call their manager and explain your concerns and forward all emails to their manager to document the adjuster’s broken promises. Claims managers are measured, at least in part, on production. They have a vested interest in your claim being resolved. Additionally, insurance managers don’t enjoy having to deal with complaint calls from customers if avoidable. This is especially true where the adjuster’s lack of follow-up is arguably the problem in the first place.
Accepting or rejecting a claim offer
It’s understandable that injury claims take time. However, at the same time, it’s vital you understand that processing a claim with an insurance company can quickly eat up the 2-year time frame you have. Be mindful to negotiate the value of your claim actively and aggressively. Don’t let significant gaps in time occur in the negotiation process. Follow up continuously and get the adjuster any additional information you feel comfortable supplying.
When you hear the adjuster finally say they are proposing their top offer, make your final decision to accept or reject the offer. If you reject, do not delay. Hire legal counsel immediately.
Too often, claimants reject top offers and then do nothing more for months. This is partly out of anger and also out of uncertainty about what to do next.
The frustration of being presented with an offensively low offer is undoubtedly understandable. But you must keep in mind that time is running out. If you don’t accept the adjuster’s “final offer,” contact an experienced Georgia auto accident attorney at Scholle Law right away. We can help you get the money you deserve. Do not delay.