How Long Do I Have To File a Car Accident Claim in Georgia?
November 2, 2023 | J.L. King
The statute of limitations tells you how long after an accident you have to file a personal injury lawsuit after your claim arises. If you miss the statute of limitations deadline, it will be impossible for you to ever file your claim in court. All the defendant has to do is file a motion for dismissal based on your failure to comply with the statute of limitations deadline, and the judge will dismiss your lawsuit.
What Is the Purpose of the Statute of Limitations?
Imagine litigating a case that arose in 1963. Most of the witnesses are already dead, and the ones that remain can barely remember what happened. The physical evidence has deteriorated or disappeared. On what basis will you try the case? Meanwhile, people with far more recent claims are waiting in line behind you with evidence that can actually resolve their claims.
The purpose of the statute of limitations is to encourage people to file their claims promptly and to avoid litigating stale claims.
What Is the Georgia Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Lawsuit?
The general Georgia statute of limitations deadline is two years after the date of the accident. This deadline applies to car accidents as well as other types of accidents. A number of exceptions apply, however.
Following are some of the most common exceptions to the statute of limitations:
- The statute of limitations period is suspended (‘tolled’) while the defendant is outside the State of Georgia and, therefore, unavailable for service of process.
- A victim who was under 18 at the time of the injury has until their 20th birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit.
- A mentally ill person is considered disabled. The statute of limitations deadline does not begin running until the victim is no longer mentally disabled.
- If the defendant in a personal injury claim is subject to a criminal prosecution for the same conduct, the statute of limitations clock does not begin ticking until criminal proceedings are complete. There is an ultimate deadline, however, of six years after the accident.
- In the event of a car accident claim based on product liability (defective brakes, for example), Georgia’s statute of repose will usually kill the claim 10 years after the product was first sold.
- In a wrongful death claim, the estate executor has until two years after the victim’s date of death (rather than two years after the accident) to file a wrongful death claim.
- Georgia allows the statute of limitations deadline in wrongful death cases to be tolled for up to five years if the deceased person’s estate has not been probated.
Applying these exceptions to the statute of limitations in a real case can be tricky.
How Do You Beat the Statute of Limitations Deadline?
You beat the statute of limitations deadline by filing a lawsuit. “Filing a lawsuit” means completing the following four steps.
- Filing a formal lawsuit complaint with the clerk of the appropriate court. You can only use the Georgia Small Claims Court if your claim’s value is under $10,000.
- Filing a court summons with the court clerk.
- Paying the filing fee to the court clerk.
- Having a neutral third party deliver a copy of the summons and the complaint to the defendant. Typically, your representative must deliver it personally. This step is known as ‘service of process.’
You must complete all four of the foregoing steps to beat the statute of limitations deadline.
Can You Settle Out of Court After Missing the Statute of Limitations Deadline?
As a practical matter, the answer is no. Effectively, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit is also the deadline for seeking a settlement. After all, if you can’t take your claim to court, the defendant has no incentive to negotiate with you.
A Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Sort It Out
The Georgia statute of limitations is complex, nuanced, and tricky. If you believe you might have a statute of limitations issue, speak with a personal injury lawyer about it. To do otherwise is to risk killing your claim.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm For Help Today
For more information, please contact The King Firm at your nearest location to schedule a free case evaluation today.
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