Statute of Limitations in Georgia: Navigating Issues

Cresting Hester Gap along US-19 in northern Georgia, you take in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the tapestry of green surrounding you. The views are exquisite, and the road is smooth.

Suddenly, your tire separates and you go down, hard. You and your passenger are badly hurt, and your rig is destroyed.

After medical aid is rendered, what do you do next?

You contact a reputable lawyer to help with your personal injury case.

Photo of Max Thelen
Max Thelen of Law Tigers Georgia/Ashby Thelen Lowry explains the statute of limitations in Georgia and why legal representation is crucial in accident injury cases.

Max Thelen, of Ashby, Thelen and Lowry, the Law Tigers attorney for Georgia, explains the expansive legal landscape for personal injury cases is complex, and requires the aid of an attorney to successfully litigate. Thelen said contacting an attorney right away is key to helping your case.

“A statute of limitations is a time period within which you must file a lawsuit, or you will lose your right to sue,” Thelen explains. “In Georgia, the statute of limitations is generally two years for claims arising from an injury. However, you should consult an attorney immediately because sometimes shorter deadlines can apply because of contracts or special laws applicable to some claims.”

In Georgia, if two years has passed and you haven’t filed a personal injury lawsuit, does this mean you forfeit your right to a claim? Yes and no, Thelen said.

“Generally, you cannot file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed,” Thelen said. “However, there are some exceptions that extend the statute of limitations beyond its normal time period, so it is still worthwhile to consult an attorney to see if your situation might fall within an exception. Some exceptions include injuries to minors and injuries that make the person mentally incompetent.”

Other exceptions may include:

  • Discovery of Injury: Some states have a “discovery rule” that allows the statute of limitations to start running from the date you discovered or should have discovered the injury, rather than from the date of the accident. This can be relevant in cases where injuries aren’t immediately apparent but is not usually applicable in a motor vehicle incident.
  • Tolling of the Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations clock may be “tolled” or paused in certain situations. For example, if the injured person is a minor at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they reach the age of majority. Similarly, if the person is mentally incapacitated, the clock may be tolled until they regain capacity. Additionally, the statute of limitations may be tolled for the benefit of a living victim if the wrongful conduct was also criminal.
  • Fraud or Concealment: If the defendant fraudulently conceals information that prevented the plaintiff from discovering their injury or the responsible party, the statute of limitations may be extended.
  • Government Entity: If the accident involves a government entity, there may be specific notice requirements and shorter time frames within which to initiate a claim. These can vary by state and locality.
  • Statutory Exceptions: Some states have specific statutory exceptions for certain types of cases, like cases involving toxic exposures or medical malpractice, which can have different rules regarding the statute of limitations.
Photo of motorcycle on ground after crash
Used by permission in Wikimedia Commons.

You’ve made the decision to contact an attorney for your accident injury case. What happens next? What information do you need to gather to help your case? Thelen said that in any circumstance where you’ve been injured, gathering as much information as possible as early as possible is crucial.

“Potential clients should reach out as soon as possible and not wait to collect information. We can help you collect the information and documentation needed to bring a case,” Thelen explains. “It is best to reach out early with the information you presently have available, and we can help you locate what else you need. Anytime you are injured, it is important to collect as much information as possible, including the names and insurance information for people who may be at fault, the details of your injuries, photographs or recordings of the incident. It is very important to save all that information and provide it to your attorney.”

Here are some details and documents to gather after an accident:

Accident Details:

  • Date and Time: The exact date and time of the accident.
  • Location: The specific location where the accident occurred, including street names and any relevant landmarks.
  • Weather and Road Conditions: Information about the weather conditions (e.g., rain, snow, fog) and the state of the road (e.g., wet, icy) at the time of the accident.
  • Description of the Accident: A detailed account of how the accident occurred, including the actions of all involved parties and any eyewitnesses.
  • Police Report: If applicable, a copy of the police report, which includes the responding officer’s observations and details about the accident.

Injury and Medical Records:

  • Medical Records: Detailed records of all medical treatment related to the injuries sustained in the accident. This includes hospital records, doctor’s notes, diagnostic tests, and any prescribed medications or therapies.
  • Medical Bills: A comprehensive list of medical bills related to the treatment of injuries, including costs of emergency care, hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation, and follow-up appointments.
  • Documentation of Injuries: Photographic evidence of injuries, such as bruises, cuts, or broken bones, to visually document the extent of harm.

Insurance and Contact Information:

  • Insurance Information: The insurance details of all parties involved, including the at-fault driver and the plaintiff. This should include the insurance company’s name, policy number, and contact information for claims.
  • Contact Information: Names, addresses, and contact information for all parties involved, including witnesses. This helps in contacting individuals for statements or testimony.
  • Correspondence: Copies of any communication with insurance companies, medical providers, or other parties involved in the accident, such as emails, letters, or notes taken during phone calls. You should speak with an attorney before communicating with an insurance adjuster. Although an adjuster can be helpful, they work for the insurance company and want to settle your claim for as little as possible and will use anything you say against you, even if you are just being polite.

While legal cases such as personal injury accident ones are highly complex, your attorney is your ultimate advocate, and any information you can give them will only help your case.

“Bringing a personal injury or wrongful death suit can be a complicated process, but we are here to help,” Thelen emphasized. “The best thing you can do is reach out as soon as possible so we can help you identify, collect, and preserve critical evidence. Often, electronic information like videos and vehicle data can be lost if you do not act quickly to preserve it. If you fail to preserve information in your possession, it can adversely affect your case. And the more evidence you can locate and preserve early on often helps you have a stronger case. It’s imperative that you contact an attorney early who can help you with that process and get your claim timely filed.”

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