One of the most common questions that is asked of a personal injury lawyer
is, "How long do I have to bring my personal injury claim?"
Or asked another way, "What is the Statute of Limitations on my Georgia
personal injury claim?" This straightforward question does not always
have a straightforward answer as it depends upon a variety of factors.
First and foremost, remember that personal injury includes the following:
wrongful death, automobile accidents, slip and fall, trip and fall, motorcycle accidents,
tractor trailer accidents, etc. The typical statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in
Georgia is two years. See O.C.G.A. section 9-3-33. However there are exceptions
which can SHORTEN or EXTEND the two year statute of limitations.
Situations that will SHORTEN the two year personal injury statute of limitations
ONE YEAR - Personal injury claim against the State of Georgia or its employees (examples: car wreck where the other driver is employed by the State of
Georgia, slip and fall in a State owned building; claim for medical malpractice
against a state owned hospital). In this situation the claim falls under
the Georgia Tort Claims Act ('GTCA"). See O.C.G.A. section 50-21-26(a)(1).
The GTCA requires that notice (sometimes referred to as ante litem notification)
be given within one year from the date of the incident. The notice must
meet the requirements as outlined in the GTCA and if it does not the claim
may be barred forever.
ONE YEAR - Personal Injury claim against a County in the State of Georgia (examples: car wreck with a county sheriff, trip and fall on a sidewalk
owned and maintained by a county). Similar to a claim against the State
of Georgia, when pursuing a claim against a county the claimant must provide
notice (ante litem notification) to the county pursuant to O.C.G.A. section
36-11-1 within one year of the date of the incident. The notice must meet
the requirements as outlined in the code section and if it does not the
claim may be forever barred.
3. SIX MONTHS - Personal Injury claim against a City or its Employees in
the State of Georgia (examples: car wreck with a city police officer, claim of medical negligence
against a city owned hospital). Similar to the exceptions above, notice
must be provided to the city within six months of the incident. See O.C.G.A.
section 36-33-5. The notice must meet the requirements as outlined in
the statute and if the city is not properly notified within the six month
period it may be barred forever.
4. ONE YEAR - Claim for Injury to Reputation. Claims for injury to your reputation, such as defamation or libel have
a shortened statute of limitations and must be brought within one year.
See O.C.G.A. section 9-3-33.
Situations that may LENGTHEN the two year personal injury statute of limitations
1. Minors - the two year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the
minor reaches the age of 18. O.C.G.A. sections 9-3-90 and 9-3-98. BUT
BEWARE!! A minor's claim in Georgia traditionally includes the medical
bills that the parents incurred on the minor's behalf for the injury.
The two year statute of limitations for the medical bills is not lengthened
because it is the parent's claim to bring, not the minor's. Best
practices are to bring the minor's
personal injury claim within two years to ensure that the medical bills are included in the claim.
2. Incompetency - If a person was LEGALLY declared incompetent at the time of the injury,
the two year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the incompetency
is removed. O.C.G.A. sections 9-3-90 and 9-3-98. This is a very narrow
exception and it must be proven that the person was legally incompetent
which can be difficult to prove.
3. Estate of the Decedent - In a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations may be extended
by the amount of time that it took from the time of the death of the decedent
until the estate becomes represented by either an executor or an administrator.
O.C.G.A. sections 9-3-92 and 9-3-98. But again watch out, the period cannot
be extended longer than five years and will begin to run after the five
year period. Thus, if you have a wrongful death claim it is wise that
it be brought as soon as possible.
Prosecution of underlying crime - The running of the statute of limitations can be extended for the amount
of time it takes from the injury to occur to the prosecution of the underlying
crime to become final. This applies in many car accident claims where
the other driver was ticketed for the car wreck. If this is the case,
then it is possible to have the statute of limitations extended for the
amount of time that it took for the prosecution of the traffic ticket
to become final. The case is
Beneke v. Parker (667 S.E.2d 97) and it was interpreting a Georgia Statute found at O.C.G.A.
section 9-3-99. This may be a narrow exception to the statute of limitations
in Georgia, but it can be very useful if applied properly.
It is important that if you have specific questions regarding the statute
of limitations and its applicability to your case, you should
get in touch with a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta immediately. Claims of wrongful death and
serious personal injury claims should be pursued as fast as possible to avoid any situation where
it could be barred.