What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Georgia?
First, we should explain that a “statute of limitations” is simply a state law that sets a time limit on a potential plaintiff’s right to bring a lawsuit in the state’s civil courts. These deadlines are almost always expressed in years, but they can vary pretty widely depending on the kind of harm you suffered and/or the kind of case you want to file.
Georgia is like many states in that the statute of limitations that applies to the vast majority of car accident lawsuits is the same one that applies to most personal injury cases. Georgia Code section 9-3-33 says “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, or pedestrian -- within two years. The clock starts running on the date of the accident.
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. (Learn more about Georgia Wrongful Death Lawsuits.)
Finally, if you want to file a lawsuit over vehicle damage caused by the accident, the statute of limitations for injuries to "personalty" (that's Georgia Code section 9-3-31) gives you four years to get the case started.
Having read all this, you may be wondering what happens if the statute of limitations deadline has passed, but you try to file your car accident lawsuit anyway. In that 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.
Finally, 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.
by: David Goguen, J.D.