What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in Georgia?

Understand and comply with Georgia's statute of limitations for lawsuits over damaged or destroyed property, or you could lose your right to get compensation from the at-fault party.

If you've had your property damaged in Georgia, you could be thinking about filing a lawsuit against the person or organization you think is legally responsible for what happened. If so, it’s important to understand Georgia's statute of limitations for property damage claims, whether your potential case involves real property (damage to your house or your land) or personal property (including vehicle damage).

In case you’re not familiar with the term, a "statute of limitations" is a state law that affects your right to file a lawsuit over any kind of legal dispute or harm suffered, by putting a limit on how much time can pass before you file the case in court. Every state has passed these laws, and the time limits vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.

The Filing Deadline in Georgia

In Georgia, a four-year filing deadline applies to any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of damaged or destroyed property, whether it’s real property or personal property. Specifically, a four-year time limit applies to the following kinds of civil lawsuits filed in the state's courts:

  • "All actions for trespass upon or damage to realty" (in other words, any situation where someone enters your property unlawfully and/or does something to damage your home, another structure, or physical land), according to Georgia Code section 9-3-30.
  • "Actions for injuries to personalty" (meaning almost any kind of property that isn’t considered real property, including vehicles, furniture, jewelry, and most anything else), according to Georgia Code section 9-3-31.

It's important to note that this four-year deadline applies any time you’re asking a court to award you monetary compensation for damaged or destroyed property, whether that claim is part of a larger legal action (a car accident case that includes claims for both personal injury and vehicle damage, for example) or a standalone lawsuit.

If You Miss the Filing Deadline

If you try to file your Georgia property damage lawsuit after the four-year deadline has passed, the defendant (the person or organization you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare cases where an exemption from the deadline applies (more on these exceptions in the next section), the court will grant the dismissal. If that happens, you've essentially lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So, even if you’re pretty sure your property damage case will settle, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.

Extending the Statute of Limitations Deadline in Georgia

In a Georgia property damage lawsuit -- and most other kinds of civil lawsuits, for that matter -- a number of situations could pause ("toll" in legalese) or extend the lawsuit filing deadline set by the statute of limitations. These include:

  • if the defendant (the person you’re trying to sue) was (or is) out of the state for any part of the four-year period, starting from the date on which the property damage occurred (Georgia Code section 9-3-94)
  • if the plaintiff is "legally incompetent because of intellectual disability or mental illness" at the time of the underlying incident (Georgia Code 9-3-90), and
  • if the plaintiff is under the age of 18 at the time of the underlying incident (Georgia Code 9-3-90).

Other exceptions may also apply to extend the Georgia statute of limitations time limit, but they're too complex to cover in this article. To learn the details of exceptions to the statute of limitations, especially if the filing deadline has passed on your property damage lawsuit -- or if the filing deadline is fast approaching -- talk with an experienced Georgia attorney.

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