What is the Property Damage Statute of Limitations in Georgia?

Comply with Georgia's statute of limitations for lawsuits over damaged or destroyed property, or you could lose your right to any compensation.

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

If you've had your property damaged in Georgia, you could be thinking about filing a lawsuit against the person you think might be legally at fault for what happened. If so, it's important to understand Georgia's statute of limitations for property damage claims, and a few related laws, whether your potential case involves:

  • real property (including damage to your house or your land) or
  • personal property (including vehicle damage).

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

First things first: A "statute of limitations" is a law that puts a strictly-enforced time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in court. Georgia, like every other state, has these laws on the books, with time limits that vary depending on the subject matter of the lawsuit.

What Is Georgia's Statute of Limitations for Property Damage Lawsuits?

In Georgia, a four-year filing deadline applies to most lawsuits 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.

More Than One Deadline Might Apply to Your Georgia Lawsuit

It's important to note that this four-year deadline applies to most situations in which 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.

What's the Georgia Statute of Limitations for Construction Defect Lawsuits?

If you suspect that your property damage might have been caused by a construction defect, the statute of limitations deadline that will apply to this kind of lawsuit depends on the main basis for your claim.

Contract-based lawsuits (including breach of warranty claims) over construction defects in Georgia are usually subject to a six-year filing deadline. (Georgia Code section 9-3-24.)

Negligence-based construction defect lawsuits (including those involving property damage) typically must be filed within four years of when the project was completed.

Finally, there's an over-arching deadline (called a "statute of repose") that says a Georgia construction defect lawsuit must be filed within eight years of when the project was "substantially" completed, regardless of the specific kinds of claims being made against the builder/contractor. (Georgia Code section 9-3-51.)

Understanding which deadline applies to your situation can get complicated. Talk to a Georgia attorney if you think your property damage case involves a construction defect. Learn more:

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

If you try to file your Georgia property damage lawsuit after the applicable deadline has passed, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly make a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. And, except in rare cases where a special exception applies (more on these in the next section), the court will grant the dismissal.

If that happens, you'll have lost your right to any legal remedy for your damaged property. So, even if you're pretty sure your property damage case will reach a settlement, you still want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit if you need to.

Can the Statute of Limitations Deadline Be Extended 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. Do your own research or talk to a lawyer for more details.

Where Do I File a Georgia Property Damage Lawsuit?

Most Georgia property damage lawsuits are filed in the state's Superior Court system, which has the power to hear a wide variety of civil lawsuits in the state. There are 49 Superior Court Circuits in the Georgia court system, each serving one or more of the 149 counties in the state. (Find your local Superior Court in Georgia.)

Your Georgia personal injury lawsuit usually starts when you file with the court— and "serve" on the defendant:

  • a "complaint" identifying your claims against the defendant, and
  • a "summons" letting the defendant know they're being sued.

Can I File a Property Damage Case In Georgia Small Claims Court?

Yes. If you're only asking for less than $15,000 from the person you're suing for property damage, you might consider filing your case in Magistrate (or small claims) Court. Get more details on small claims court in Georgia.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Georgia Property Damage Claim?

It often makes sense to handle a property damage claim yourself if the case is fairly straightforward. It can even be challenging to find a lawyer to take a run-of-the-mill property damage claim. But reaching out to a Georgia attorney and discussing your options might be a good idea if:

  • personal injury or some other legal issue is woven into the incident that led to your property damage
  • your case is one that involves a construction defect, or
  • the insurance adjuster's handling of your property damage claim was so unprofessional or unfair that it might amount to "bad faith".

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