There are many reasons to file a personal injury claim for injuries suffered from another individual’s or entity’s negligence, including motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, dog attacks, and medical malpractice. If you were recently injured in Georgia for negligence-based reasons, you must file a legal claim by a certain date or you may not be compensated for your injuries.
Each state has different statute of limitations regarding personal injury claims. Unless a rare exception applies, cases filed after the time specified by the statute of limitations are thrown out by the courts as being brought too late, and the injured party will be unable to recover any compensation for their injuries. To avoid this, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as you are injured to ensure your legal rights are protected.
What is the time limit for bringing an action for personal injury in Georgia?
Per O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33, most personal injury plaintiffs in Georgia, including those bringing claims for car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, product liability and wrongful death, have two years from the date that their injuries occurred to file a lawsuit, but some claims have shorter or longer statute of limitations. However, as explained further below, there are other statutes that need to be considered for determining when to file a lawsuit, so it is incredibly important to contact an attorney as soon as you are injured to protect your rights.
Statute of limitations in injury claims against a city, county, or the State of Georgia
If the personal injury claim is against the government, whether a city, a county or the State, the plaintiff has additional steps that must be taken in as soon as six months after the injuries occurred or they can lose their rights to sue the government for their injuries. Specifically, the government must be notified of any potential legal action, which includes providing information about the case to the government, before the government can be sued. This is known as ante litem notice. These different deadlines and steps that must be taken based on how a person was injured further highlight how imperative it is that injured parties contact an attorney as soon as possible after they are injured to protect their rights. Otherwise, you may not be able to recover any compensation.
Are there exceptions to the statute of limitations in Georgia?
While most personal injury claims in the Peach State need to be filed by certain times to avoid the loss of rights, the amount of time you have to file may be extended for extenuating circumstances. This is known as “tolling.” Tolling does not cancel the statute of limitations, but rather extends the time that a plaintiff is able to sue, because the statute is “tolled” such that the clock is not counting down. Tolling only occurs in very specific situations, such as when the plaintiff is mentally incapacitated or otherwise unfit to file by the deadline. The statute of limitations is tolled (e.g., the clock does not begin to run) until the time when the plaintiff is considered mentally fit to file and continue with case proceedings. As another example, if the injury or other health issue “could not have been reasonably discovered” within the specified time of the statute of limitations, the injured party may have additional time to bring a claim. However, tolling does not last forever as there are statutes of repose in Georgia that prevent claims from being brought after a certain number of years has passed, even if statute of limitations is tolled.
Common damages in Georgia personal injury claims
It is possible to collect different types of damages in a personal injury claim, depending on the nature of the accident and the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. The extent of any applicable property damage also factors in. Each case is different and not all plaintiffs will have the below damages, but some examples of economic damages include:
- Emergency medical care
- Non-emergency medical care, such as surgery
- Ongoing medical care, such as prescription medication, physical therapy, or occupational therapy
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity if the plaintiff can no longer work at the same level they were able to before the accident
- Disability if the plaintiff is no longer able to work
- Trauma counseling
Non-economic damages, or those relating to the mental, emotional, and psychological toll on the plaintiff because of the accident, can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
Should the plaintiff perish from their injuries, their surviving family members may be able to recover wrongful death damages, such as funeral and burial expenses, loss of income, and loss of companionship.
In some personal injury cases, the plaintiff asks for punitive damages. These damages are due to gross wrongdoing or gross negligence on the defendant’s part. Punitive damages are designed to punish defendants who commit gross or heinous acts that are against public policy to try and prevent these defendants, or similarly situated defendants, from committing similar acts in the future. Punitive damages are rare and are typically only seen in the most egregious of cases, so most plaintiffs are unable to recover punitive damages.
When you or a loved one has been injured because of someone else’s negligence, the best course of action, even if you think you have additional time to bring a lawsuit, is to speak with an attorney immediately because the laws determining how long a plaintiff has to sue are complex. Additionally, the timeframe you have to sue can change dramatically depending on how you were injured and who injured you. If the person’s injuries are so severe that they cannot make the call in a timely manner, a loved one can contact the attorney on the injured party’s behalf. Speaking with a lawyer in the days following the accident is the best course of action and very important because it gives the attorney ample time to review and investigate the case, as well file paperwork with the court, to protect your legal rights to ensure you receive the just compensation you deserve.
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If you believe you have a personal injury case, contact the attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP. We have offices in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, and take on a wide variety of personal injury cases. Call our offices or submit our contact form to schedule an appointment today.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.