Georgia Car Accident Laws

An in-depth look at statutory time limits for filing a Georgia car accident lawsuit, the state's comparative negligence rule, and more.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

After any kind of traffic accident in Georgia, it helps to understand the different state laws that might come into play (whether or not you end up making a claim), including:

  • Georgia's fault rules, including what happens when the claimant played a part in causing the car accident
  • the deadlines for filing a lawsuit in state court after a car accident, and
  • rules for reporting a car accident in Georgia.

How Does Fault Affect a Georgia Car Accident Case?

Around a dozen states follow a "no-fault" system for car accidents, at least when it comes to car insurance, meaning a driver's own insurance covers certain losses after a crash, regardless of who caused it.

But Georgia follows a traditional "fault"-based system, meaning the person at fault for the car accident is also on the financial hook for injuries, vehicle damage, and other effects. Practically speaking, that means the at-fault driver's car insurance company will cover other people's losses resulting from the accident, up to the driver's liability coverage limits. A little later on we'll discuss what happens when the claimant bears some amount of fault for the car accident in Georgia.

Learn more about proving fault for a car accident.

What Car Accident Losses Are Compensated In Georgia?

As part of any car insurance claim or lawsuit you file after a Georgia car accident, you're entitled to compensation for the full spectrum of your losses (these losses are called "damages" in the language of the law), including:

  • medical treatment for car accident injuries
  • pain and suffering caused by the accident and resulting injuries, and
  • lost income and other economic losses tied to the effects of the accident.

The Georgia Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a time limit on a potential plaintiff's right to bring a lawsuit. These deadlines vary depending on the kind of harm you suffered and/or the kind of case you want to file.

(Note: the statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver's, is going to require you to make a claim—or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim—"promptly" or "within a reasonable time" after the accident. That usually means a matter of days, or a few weeks at most.)

Georgia is like most states in that the statute of limitations that applies to a car accident lawsuit will usually be the same as the one that applies to most personal injury cases. Georgia Code section 9-3-33 says that "Actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues."

That's just a fancy (or confusing) way of saying that after a car accident, an injury claim must be filed by anyone who was hurt in the crash—whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, electric scooter rider, or pedestrian—within two years. The clock starts running on the date of the accident.

If you want to file a lawsuit over vehicle damage caused by the accident, the Georgia statute of limitations for injuries to "personalty" (meaning personal property, including vehicles) gives you four years to get the case started.

Georgia's Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Could Apply to Car Accident Cases

If the car accident caused someone's death, and the family wants to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver who caused the crash, the deadline for filing that kind of lawsuit is also two years. But keep in mind that the clock starts running on the date of the victim's death, which might be different from the date of the accident itself.

What If You Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline In Georgia?

In this situation, the defendant (that's the person you're trying to sue) will point out the passage of the deadline in a motion to dismiss, and the court will almost certainly grant the dismissal. That's why it's crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation.

So, from a strategic standpoint, it's always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit, even if you think your case will be resolved through a car insurance settlement. Keeping all your options on the table will give you more leverage during settlement talks. So if the statute of limitations filing deadline is close, it may be time to talk with an experienced Georgia car accident attorney.

Comparative Negligence in Georgia Car Accident Cases

"Comparative fault" refers to the situation where more than one party is at least partially at fault for an accident. States follow different approaches in this scenario.

In a Georgia personal injury lawsuit, you can recover against any party who was more at-fault than you were, but your damages (your financial recovery) will be reduced by a percentage that corresponds to your share of liability. In legalese, this means Georgia is a "modified comparative negligence" state.

Of course, this rule controls judge or jury awards in civil lawsuits (if you get to that stage). But before you get to that point, a car insurance claims adjuster will negotiate a settlement with an eye on Georgia's comparative fault rules. Keep in mind that because there is not a precise method to apportion fault empirically, the ultimate decision as to fault will depend on your ability to negotiate with an insurance claim adjuster, or to convince a judge or jury.

To see how this rule plays out in real life, we'll take a look at an example. Let's say you're driving a few miles-per-hour over the speed limit when another driver suddenly makes a left turn in front of you. Without enough time to stop, you collide with the other car. The other driver is found to be 80 percent at fault, but since you were speeding, the jury (or adjuster) figures that you were 20 percent at fault for the accident. If you would otherwise be entitled to a $10,000 award or settlement, it would be reduced to $8,000 based on your 20-percent share of fault.

One last note: You will not be able to recover anything at all under Georgia's modified comparative negligence rule if your share of fault for the accident meets or exceeds 50 percent.

Georgia Auto Insurance Requirements

Car insurance is certain to play a part in any claim that's made after a car accident. Georgia, like most states, requires vehicle owners to maintain certain minimum amounts of liability coverage. So, understanding the Georgia auto insurance rules is essential to any potential car accident case.

Reporting a Car Accident in Georgia

According to Georgia Code section 40-6-273, drivers in the state must report any vehicle accident that:

  • results in injury to or death of any person, or
  • results in property damage to an apparent extent of $500 or more.

The driver must report the accident to the local police department if the crash occurred within an incorporated city or town. If the crash occurred outside an incorporated city or town, the driver must report the accident to the nearest sheriff's office or state police station. In either case, the driver must make the report "immediately, by the quickest means of communication."

Get more tips on what to do after a car accident.

Getting Help After a Georgia Car Accident

It's always good to get a basic understanding of the laws that could come into play after a car accident, but when you're injured in a crash, you might need more than just information. It might make sense to discuss your situation (and your options) with an experienced legal professional.

Learn more about when you might need a lawyer after a car accident., and how to find the right attorney for an injury case. You can also use the features right on this page to connect with a Georgia car accident lawyer in your area.

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