Time limits for personal injury and wrongful death claims in Georgia.

In Georgia, the standard limitation period for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years, with a four-year limit for loss of consortium claim by the spouse of the injured person.

O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33 states: “Except as otherwise provided in this article, actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues, except for injuries to the reputation, which shall be brought within one year after the right of action accrues, and except for actions for injuries to the person involving loss of consortium, which shall be brought within four years after the right of action accrues.”

However, exceptions abound, and it’s crucial to navigate additional rules carefully to avoid traps for the unwary.

Time limit for filing suit is suspended until criminal charges against the at-fault party are concluded.

If a criminal charge, such as a traffic ticket, arises from the incident, the limitation period is extended until two years after the criminal charge resolution (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99; Harrison v. McAfee, 338 Ga. App. 393, 788 S.E.2d 872 (2016)).

In wrongful death claims, the time limit for filing suit runs from time of death, not time of fatal incident.

Often a person is fatally injured but lives day, weeks or months longer. Wrongful death claims time limits are calculated from the time of death, and must be filed in court within two years from the death unless other tolling rules apply. OCGA 9-3-33.

For injuries to minors, the time limit for filing suit runs from 18th birthday.

For individuals under 18 at the time of the incident, the limitation period extends to two years after turning 18. Thus, the time limit for most personal injury claims of minors in the 20th birthday. However, it may not be prudent to wait that long. (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-90(b)).

For injuries to mentally incompetent people, time limits for filing suit generally run from time disability is removed.

If the injured person is legally incompetent due to mental retardation or mental illness, the limitation period is tolled until the removal of disability. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-90. The test for mental incompetency is whether a person was unable to manage ordinary affairs of his life. Merely mismanaging his affairs, being unclear in his mind, or generally “out of it” is not enough. The suspension of time limits ends when a guardian or “next friend” files suit for the incompetent person.

For claims of unrepresented estates, the time limit for filling suit is suspended up to five years.

For unrepresented estates of deceased parties, the statute of limitation is tolled for up to five years (O.C.G.A. §§ 9-3-92, 9-3-93).

Fraud may suspend time limits for filing suit.

Fraud preventing the claimant from taking action may toll the statute of limitation under certain circumstances (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-96).

Claims Against Municipalities, Counties, and State Government

  • Claims against state government: In claims against state government in Georgia, a notice of claim must be sent within 12 months of the date the loss was discovered or should have been discovered. O.C.G.A. § 50-21-26. That notice must be in writing specifying the basis of the claim and the amount claimed up to the statutory limit of $1, sent by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery return receipt requested, to the Risk Management Division of the Department of Administrative Services, with a copy to the head of the agency involved.
  • Claims against municipalities must be sent within six months of the incident. The statute of limitation is tolled for claims against a municipality between the time a valid presuit notice and demand is served and the city’s taking action (O.C.G.A. § 36-33-5). This does not apply to claims against counties or the state government.
  • Claims against counties must be given to the county governing authority within 12 months. Otherwise the normal limitation period and tolling rules apply except that “minors or other persons laboring under disabilities shall be allowed 12 months after the removal of the disability to present their claims.” O.C.G.A. § 36-11-1

Defendant Leaves Georgia

If a defendant leaves the state, “the time of his absence from the state until he returns to reside shall not be counted or estimated in his favor.” OCGA 9-3-94.

Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice claims have a strict two-year statute of limitation. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-73. If a child under age five is injured by medical malpractice, the child’s suit must be filed in court by the seventh birthday. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-73(b). The statute of limitation may be tolled in limited circumstances where the plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney seeks medical records following strict statutory procedures (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-97.1).

Understanding these rules is vital for ensuring compliance with Georgia’s personal injury laws. The interaction of these rules under the facts of individual cases may form traps for the unwary.

If you or a loved one have had a serious injury that was someone else’s fault, submit our inquiry form or call us now at 404-253-7862.

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Johnson & Ward 

Founded in 1949, Johnson & Ward was the first and best personal injury specialty law firm in Georgia. Founders of the firm were among the founders of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Former partners have served as judges of trial and appellate courts, and current partners include former  presidents of the Atlanta Bar Association and State Bar of Georgia.

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Ken Shigley is a partner at Johnson & Ward, started in 1949, which was the first personal injury speciality law firm in Atlanta. A former president of the State Bar of Georgia, he was the first Georgia lawyer to earn three national board certifications from the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Mr. Shigley wrote eleven annual editions of a book about Georgia’s civil trial practice. In 2019, he received the “Tradition of Excellence Award” for lifetime achievement in the legal profession. He graduated from Furman University and Emory University Law School, and completed certificate programs in negotiation and mediation at Harvard Law School. Mr. Shigley has been a widower since 2017. His son is a golf fitness trainer and his daughter works with terminally ill people in hospice. 

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