What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Georgia?

Georgia's personal injury statute of limitations sets a strictly-enforced time limit on your legal right to ask a court to award you compensation for your accident-related losses.

If you're thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia's court system -- whether after a car accident, dog bite, or some other incident where someone else’s careless or intentional act caused you harm -- it's crucial to make sure you're in compliance with the statute of limitations for these kinds of cases. Read on for the details on the filing deadline set by this Georgia law, why the deadline is so important, and when the time limit might be extended.

Two Years is the Standard Time Limit for Georgia Personal Injury Lawsuits

Georgia Code section 9-3-33 gives you two years, starting from the date of the underlying accident or incident, to file an "action for injuries to the person." So, this statutory deadline applies to almost all conceivable types of personal injury lawsuits, whether they're based on a liability theory of negligence (the defendant's careless conduct caused the accident) or intentional tort (the injury resulted from purposeful action on the part of the defendant).

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?

If you try to file a personal injury lawsuit after more than two years have passed since the underlying accident or incident, it's a near-certainty that the defendant (the person you're suing) will point this fact out to the court, and the court will summarily dismiss your case. If that happens, you’'ll have lost your right to seek damages for your injuries, no matter how significant they might be, and no matter how clear the defendant’s liability, unless you are entitled to an extension of the statute of limitations under a rare exception (more details on these exceptions in the next section).

It's important to note that the Georgia personal injury statute of limitations isn't just a factor if you've decided to take your injury case to court via a formal lawsuit. The filing deadline set by this law is also crucial to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and his or her insurance company. And if the two-year deadline set by the statute of limitations has passed, then it goes without saying that you'll have lost all your leverage. After all, "I'll see you in court" is the very definition of an empty threat if the other side knows that your filing a lawsuit is now a procedural impossibility.

Exceptions to the Georgia Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

Georgia has identified a variety of different scenarios that might serve to delay the running of the statute of limitations "clock," or pause the clock after it has started to run, effectively extending the two-year filing deadline set by Georgia Code section 9-3-33.

Here are some examples of circumstances that are likely to modify the standard two-year timeline for the filing of a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia:

  • when the defendant (the person the plaintiff is trying to sue) leaves the state of Georgia after the underlying accident, and before the plaintiff can file the lawsuit and "serve" the defendant with the necessary legal documents, the time of the absence probably won’t be counted as part of the two years until the defendant "returns to reside" in Georgia. (Georgia Code section 9-3-94.)
  • when the injured person was a minor (under 18) or was "legally incompetent because of intellectual disability or mental illness" at the time of the accident, the two year "clock" likely won't run until the person turns 18 or the period of incompetence is declared over. (Georgia Code section 9-3-90.)

If you have questions about how Georgia’s statute of limitations applies to your potential personal injury lawsuit -- especially if the deadline has passed or is looming -- it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney.

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