Georgia Statute of Limitations Explained

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Nathan Whittenburg

Owner & Attorney - Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and legal experts at Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer, Nathan Whittenburg, you can do so here.

Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

Georgia Statute of Limitations Explained

On this page, we’ll discuss the Georgia Statute of Limitations, how statute of limitations and filing deadlines impact a car accident claim, how a car accident lawyer in Atlanta can help you, and much more.

How Long Do You Have To File a Car Accident Claim in Georgia?

Motor vehicle accidents are among the deadliest types of incidents that occur nationwide.

With the potentially devastating nature of car accidents, seeking prompt legal action is critical to ensure justice and maximum compensation.

However, victims often put off the process as they are unaware of the time limits set by law, known as the statute of limitations.

Statutes of limitations outline the maximum period you can file a claim.

The Georgia statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits is two(2) years, according to O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.

Georgia Statute of Limitations Explained by a Car Accident Lawyer

The two-year limit only applies to a personal injury claim.

If you want to seek a claim for property damages, you have a four-year time limit, as stated in O.C.G.A. § 9-3-32.

Missing the statute of limitations deadline risks the chance of your case being heard, as courts strictly adhere to these laws.

At the Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm, we can help you navigate the legal system within the relevant timeframe for your case.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident at no fault of your own, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and pursue financial compensation.

Contact our law firm for a free consultation.

You can also use our chatbot for a free and instant case evaluation.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Statute of Limitations & Georgia Law

The statute of limitation is a law that sets the maximum time when the aggrieved party or plaintiff can file a lawsuit against the defendant.

Car accident victims in Georgia generally have two years to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

If a victim fails to file their claim within this time frame, the court may dismiss their case, and they will lose the right to seek compensation for their injuries or damages.

While the established statute of limitation for car wrecks is two years, there may be exceptions.

It is highly recommended to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to understand the relevant filing deadlines in your case.

The statute of limitations applies to civil and criminal aspects of law.

Each state has a specific statute of limitations, which varies depending on the type of case.

In general, criminal cases have longer statutes of limitations than civil cases.

This difference is because criminal cases are considered more severe and can result in imprisonment, while civil cases typically involve monetary damages.

The statute of limitation is established to ensure the timeliness of the case.

With a limited time frame, defendants are protected from irrelevant and outdated claims.

At the same time, plaintiffs can maintain the integrity of their case by filing it soon after the accident happened.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Differ From the Statute of Repose?

Legal time limits play a crucial role in personal injury lawsuits, with the statute of limitations often being the most recognized.

However, there is another legal time limit to remember: the statute of repose (SoR).

Although both the statute of limitations and the statute of repose establish deadlines for filing lawsuits, they serve distinct purposes and operate under different principles.

The statute of repose sets an absolute deadline for initiating a lawsuit from the date of an alleged incident or occurrence, irrespective of when any injury or damage was discovered.

This statute is especially relevant in cases involving product liability, medical negligence, professional negligence, and construction accidents.

This means that the SoR can bar lawsuits even if the injury or damage has not yet been discovered, creating a hard deadline that provides certainty for potential defendants about their exposure to liability.

The statute of repose aims to limit the liability of manufacturers, contractors, and other professionals after a certain period, providing a definitive endpoint to potential legal claims.

In Georgia, the statute of repose ranges from five to ten years, depending on the specific nature of the case.

Medical malpractice cases in Georgia have a five year statute of repose.

What Are the Benefits of Statute of Limitations?

The legal concept of the statute of limitations has faced scrutiny over time.

However, supporters of the statute argue that it provides several benefits.

From ensuring the timeliness of the case to protecting defendants from irrelevant and outdated claims, the statute of limitations serves a crucial role in the legal system.

Ensures the Relevance of the Case for the Plaintiff

A car accident case is time-sensitive.

With the statute of limitations, plaintiffs must file their claims promptly, providing accurate and fresh evidence for their case.

Georgia law ensures that the victim will present the most relevant facts and evidence in the court.

Moreover, the SoL also improves the plaintiff’s chances of recovering just compensation for their injuries.

The courts often prioritize more relevant cases, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome for the plaintiff.

Protects the Defendant From Unjust Complaints

One of the primary purposes of the statute of limitations is to protect defendants from facing a lawsuit after an extended period has passed.

Without the statute of limitations, defendants could be vulnerable to lawsuits for decades, even for incidents that occurred many years ago.

This protection also preserves the integrity of the legal system by preventing frivolous or stale claims from cluttering up the courts and wasting judicial resources.

In a way, the statute of limitations also acts as a filtering system to prevent the courts from being overwhelmed with outdated cases.

Ensures the Validity of Proof and Evidence

As mentioned in the first point, a timely filed case ensures the freshness and accuracy of evidence.

This timeliness is especially crucial in car accident cases, where physical evidence such as skid marks or vehicular damages can be lost or altered over time.

The statute of limitations also prevents witnesses from being unable to recall specific details about the accident scene due to the passing of time.

This limitation further strengthens the integrity of the case and increases its chances of a fair resolution.

Ensures a Quick Resolution of the Case

A car accident lawsuit could quite some time to resolve.

The statute of limitations acts as a deadline for both parties to complete their investigations, file their claims, and present their arguments in court.

This time limit ensures that the case will be resolved promptly, providing closure for both the plaintiff and defendant.

As mentioned, courts often prioritize more relevant issues, and with fresher evidence, this can also speed up the case’s resolution.

What Are the Consequences of Missing the Statute of Limitations?

Missing the time limit could be devastating for a plaintiff, especially if their injuries require ongoing medical treatment and financial support.

When the statute of limitations expires, it becomes incredibly difficult to recover compensation through established legal avenues.

There are numerous reasons a plaintiff would miss filing a case from the statute of limitations, such as not knowing the time limit, not taking their injuries seriously, or failing to gather enough evidence.

Regardless, missing the deadline can have severe consequences for a plaintiff.

Dismissal of the Case

The most apparent consequence of missing the time limit is the dismissal of the case.

Once the statute of limitations has expired, the defendant’s party can easily argue that the case should be dismissed due to not being filed on time.

Missing the time limit means that even if a plaintiff has strong evidence and a compelling case, they cannot present them in court.

The dismissal of the case could result in the plaintiff being unable to recover compensation for their injuries.

Lack of Evidence To Present to the Court

The credibility of the evidence is a crucial factor in any legal case.

As time passes, evidence can become lost, damaged, or altered, making it challenging to present a strong case in court.

Accident witnesses might have trouble remembering accurate accounts of the incident, which could undermine the plaintiff’s claim.

Missing the statute of limitations could result in missing out on crucial evidence that may have been available immediately after the accident.

Losing essential evidence could significantly weaken the plaintiff’s case and reduce their chances of receiving just compensation.

Exceptions and Extensions of the Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations may be subject to exceptions and extensions in certain cases.

The court may be stringent on the limits they set, but there are still situations where the plaintiff may have some leeway.

These extensions could help unaware victims with legitimate claims receive the compensation they deserve despite missing the deadline.

Pending Criminal Prosecution (OCGA 9-3-99)

Victims in car accidents involving criminal negligence are protected through OCGA 9-3-99, which tolls the statute of limitations for civil claims while a criminal prosecution is pending.

This Georgia code ensures that the clock on the statute of limitations is paused, providing victims with the necessary time to initiate civil lawsuits related to the crime without the pressure of a ticking deadline.

Using a DUI accident as an example, this means that the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit does not begin until the criminal case against the driver at fault is resolved, ensuring that the grieving process and focus on criminal justice do not cost the victim their chance for civil justice.

The tolling period, or length of time the statute of limitations is paused, begins from the date of the alleged criminal act and continues until the criminal case reaches a final verdict or is otherwise terminated, with a maximum tolling period capped at six years.

By allowing for this pause, Georgia law aims to ensure that victims have the opportunity to seek civil redress once the criminal proceedings have concluded.

Common Law Discovery Rule

The common law discovery rule is a legal theory that extends the statute of limitations when the plaintiff could not have reasonably discovered their injury within the time limit.

The court may grant an extension if the plaintiff was unaware of their injuries or did not know they resulted from the defendant’s negligence.

For example, in cases where negligent manufacturing of certain products causes long-term health issues, it might take years for the plaintiff to discover their injuries.

In such instances, the court may extend the statute of limitations from the time of discovery rather than when the damage occurred.

In a car accident, this situation could apply if the plaintiff develops chronic back pain months or even years after the accident.

If they can prove that their injury directly resulted from the collision, the court may grant an extension for filing the case.

Statutory Discovery Rule

Unlike the common law discovery rule, the statutory discovery rule determines the time limit for filing a case based on when the plaintiff discovered the problem.

This problem could be rooted in the defendant’s negligence.

The statutory discovery rule is more common in medical malpractice cases where the plaintiff may not know about their injuries until they seek medical attention.

For example, a plaintiff might undergo surgery and later discover that the surgeon left a surgical instrument inside their body.

In such cases, the statute of limitations would begin when the plaintiff realized the presence of the foreign object rather than when it was initially left inside.

Fraudulent Concealment

In some cases, the defendant might take active steps to conceal their negligence and wrongdoing, making it difficult for the plaintiff to discover their injuries.

In such instances, the court may extend the statute of limitations due to fraudulent concealment.

For example, a car manufacturer might knowingly hide evidence of faulty vehicle parts that caused accidents.

If the plaintiff can prove that the defendant intentionally concealed this information, they may be granted an extension for filing their case.

However, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they could not have reasonably discovered the fraud before its discovery.

Another typical example of fraudulent concealment is when the defendant promises to pay the victim despite delaying or refusing the payment.

In such cases, the court may extend the statute of limitations if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s actions were intentionally deceptive.

Equitable Tolling

Equitable tolling means the court may pause or suspend the statute of limitations for a valid reason.

This suspension usually occurs when the plaintiff faces obstacles beyond their control that prevent them from filing their case within the time limit.

For example, if a victim is mentally incapacitated due to injuries sustained in an accident, they may be unable to file a claim before the deadline.

Equitable tolling may apply in such cases, and the statute of limitations would be suspended until the plaintiff regains their mental capacity.

Another instance where equitable tolling may apply is when the defendant intimidates or threatens the victim, preventing them from filing a case.

In such cases, the court may extend the time limit to allow the plaintiff to seek justice without fear of retaliation.

Under Exceptional Circumstances

Exceptional circumstances refer to events beyond the plaintiff’s control that could not have been foreseen.

These situations may include natural disasters, war, or other calamities that prevent the plaintiff from filing their case within the time limit.

In such cases, the court may extend the statute of limitations as long as the plaintiff can prove that these circumstances significantly hindered their ability to file a claim.

However, this exception is rarely granted and only applies in extreme cases.

An underage plaintiff could also seek an extension under exceptional circumstances, as they may not know their legal rights or have the means to file a case.

In such cases, the court may grant an extension until the plaintiff reaches the age of majority.

What Is the Timeline of Car Accident Cases?

The average car accident case takes around 6 months to 1.5 years to settle.

However, the car accident claim could be resolved earlier or later than the average timeline, depending on the facts of the case.

No two car accidents are the same, so a thorough investigation must occur before the case is resolved.

Here’s an overview of the car accident settlement timeline:

  • Occurrence of the Accident: The car accident settlement process begins at the moment of the accident. In cases where injuries are not severe, gathering evidence immediately at the scene can be beneficial. This includes taking photos of the collision, such as skid marks, obtaining the other driver’s information, and collecting witness statements. Such evidence can prove to be crucial later in the case.
  • Seek Medical Treatment: In instances of severe injuries, it’s imperative to contact emergency services immediately. Receiving medical treatment promptly not only addresses health concerns but also provides medical records, which are an essential form of evidence in car accident cases, demonstrating the extent of the injuries sustained.
  • Finding a Lawyer: After recovering from injuries, hiring a reputable Atlanta car accident lawyer is a critical legal step. An experienced attorney guides clients through the legal process, offering advice on the best course of action and handling negotiations with insurance companies.
  • Gathering Evidence: Evidence collected at the accident scene should be provided to the attorney. If evidence isn’t readily available, attorneys will conduct thorough investigations to obtain necessary evidence, including acquiring police reports, reviewing medical records, and consulting with experts.
  • Sending the Demand Letter: With sufficient evidence, the attorney will draft and send a demand letter to the other driver’s insurance company. This letter outlines the facts of the case and evidence demonstrating the other party’s negligence.
  • Negotiating With the Insurance Company: Upon receiving the demand letter, the insurance company will conduct its investigation. Following this, they may initiate settlement discussions, during which the attorney will negotiate on behalf of the client.
  • Receiving Your Settlement: Most personal injury claims are resolved through out-of-court settlements. Once a settlement amount is agreed upon, the insurance company issues a check to the attorney’s office. After deducting legal fees, the remaining amount is transferred to the client.
  • Filing a Case: If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, the attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit. Although the lawsuit process can be lengthier and more complex than out-of-court settlements, it can potentially lead to higher compensation. In a trial, a jury decides on the validity of the compensation claim and the appropriate compensation amount.

How an Experienced Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You

Hiring the right Atlanta car accident attorney helps ensure you receive a fair settlement for your injuries.

If you or a loved one were injured in a car wreck in Georgia, reach out to our legal team for a free initial consultation to learn about your legal options.

You can also use the chatbot on this page for a free case evaluation.

Below are several points on how an experienced lawyer can help you seek justice for car accident injuries in the Atlanta metro area and Georgia.

Knowledge of the State and Local Law

An experienced car accident lawyer understands the state and local laws that may affect your case.

They can help you determine the statute of limitations for your specific situation and any exceptions or tolling principles that may apply.

With their knowledge, they can also advise you on the best legal course of action, whether for filing a claim or going to trial.

Car accident lawyers understand the nuances of the local and state legal system, ensuring you have a strong case and are not caught off guard.

Experience in Handling Car Accident Cases

Hiring an experienced car accident attorney ensures that no critical details are overlooked in your case.

Attorneys will consider the other driver’s negligence, if more than one person could be held liable, the actions of the vehicles involved, relevant evidence, and much more to assess your case.

With their experience, car accident lawyers can effectively gather evidence, interview witnesses, and negotiate with third parties on your behalf.

This expertise allows you to focus on recovering from your injuries while knowing that your case is in the hands of a person who understands what you’re going through.

Ensures the Timeliness of the Case

A Georgia car accident attorney will understand the urgency of filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations.

Car accident attorneys can guide you in promptly gathering the necessary information and evidence and filing your claim as soon as possible.

An attorney can help prevent delays or issues that may arise with your case later by ensuring timely action.

Timely filing is crucial in maximizing your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries.

Evidence Recovery and Extensive Resources

The strength and validity of your evidence directly reflect on the compensation you may receive for your injuries.

An experienced lawyer has access to extensive resources, allowing them to gather and analyze evidence that supports your case.

They can also work with experts such as accident reconstruction experts and medical professionals to strengthen your claim.

Ensures Just Settlement or Compensation

The other driver’s insurance company may try to coerce you into accepting a lowball settlement or deny your claim altogether.

An experienced car accident lawyer can effectively negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to ensure you receive just compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses.

If negotiations fail, they can represent you in court and advocate for your rights to fair compensation.

Our Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You

The doctrine of statute of limitations may be confusing for many.

Without awareness of this law, victims may miss their opportunity to file a case and receive maximum compensation.

The Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm understands the complexities of Georgia’s laws surrounding car accidents.

We have helped victims receive fair compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and we’re prepared to represent you.

Contact law firm today for a free consultation.

You can also use our chatbot on this page to get a free and instant case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Steps Should I Take After a Motor Vehicle Accident?

    After a motor vehicle accident, it’s important to follow certain steps to ensure your safety, comply with legal requirements, and protect your rights.

    Here’s what you should do:

    1. Ensure Safety: If possible, move to a safe area away from traffic. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
    2. Check for Injuries: Assess yourself and others for injuries. Do not move anyone who is unconscious or has serious injuries unless there is a hazard.
    3. Call Emergency Services: Dial 911. Reporting the accident to the police is crucial, and if there are any injuries, medical assistance will be needed.
    4. Exchange Information: Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s). Include names, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and basic insurance information.
    5. Document the Accident: Take photos of the accident scene, including all vehicles involved, any visible damage, and the surrounding area. Make notes of the accident details, including time, location, and weather conditions.
    6. Gather Witness Information: If there are witnesses, get their contact information. Their statements can be vital if there are disputes about the accident.
    7. Seek Medical Attention: Even if you feel fine, it’s important to get checked by a healthcare professional. Some injuries are not immediately apparent.
    8. Notify Your Insurance Company: Inform your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. Be honest about the incident and your injuries.
    9. Keep Records: Keep all accident-related documents and information together. This includes police reports, medical records, and any communication related to the accident.
    10. Consult a Lawyer: Consider consulting a lawyer, especially if there are significant damages or injuries. A lawyer can provide legal advice, help you navigate the insurance claims process, and represent you in dealings with other drivers or insurance companies.

    Remember, the actions you take immediately after an accident can have significant implications for any legal or insurance proceedings that follow.

  • How Can a Georgia Car Accident Lawyer Help Me?

    Our experienced Atlanta car accident attorneys can help you seek a fair settlement for your injuries and damages.

    We provide expert legal guidance throughout the entire process, from the initial investigation to the final resolution of your case.

    Our legal team is skilled in negotiating with insurance companies, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

    Additionally, our law firm can handle all the legal paperwork and court representations, relieving you of the stress and complexities involved in legal proceedings.

    If necessary, we are prepared to take your case to trial, advocating on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome.

  • What types of compensation can I receive for a car accident in Atlanta, Georgia (GA)?

    In Atlanta, GA, as in many jurisdictions, individuals involved in a car accident may be entitled to various types of compensation, depending on the specifics of their case.

    Damages can include:

    1. Medical Expenses: Compensation for medical costs incurred due to the accident. This covers emergency services, hospitalization, surgery, doctor visits, physical therapy, prescription medications, and any future medical care related to the accident injuries.
    2. Lost Wages: If the accident results in time away from work, compensation can include lost wages. This also extends to lost earning capacity if the injuries impact your ability to work in the future.
    3. Property Damage: Reimbursement for damage to your vehicle and other personal property as a result of the accident. This includes repair costs or the fair market value of the property if it is beyond repair.
    4. Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress caused by the accident. This is a non-economic damage and can vary significantly based on the severity of the injuries and their impact on your daily life.
    5. Loss of Enjoyment of Life: If the injuries prevent you from enjoying day-to-day activities or hobbies that you participated in before the accident, you may be compensated for this loss.
    6. Punitive Damages: In cases where the other party’s actions were especially reckless or egregious, punitive damages may be awarded as a way to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar future conduct.

    It’s important to consult with an experienced Georgia car accident attorney who can assess your specific situation and help you understand the types of compensation you may be entitled to.

    Georgia car accident attorneys can also assist in negotiating with insurance companies and, if necessary, represent you in court to ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses.

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About Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm

Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm specializes in personal injury cases across Georgia, including motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, catastrophic injuries, and wrongful death claims. Our experienced Georgia injury attorney works on a contingency fee basis, ensuring you only pay legal fees once we secure your settlement or verdict.

Contact our experienced legal team by phone or visit our website for a instant case evaluation. Trust Atlanta Personal Injury Law Firm for dedicated legal representation in Georgia.

Do You
Have A Case?

Our firm specializes in personal injury cases across the state of Georgia, working on a contingency fee basis to ensure the best possible service for each client.

Click below to get a free, instant case evaluation and find out if you qualify for legal action immediately.

Would you like our help?

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