Articles Tagged with statute of limitations

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make following a serious accident is to not contact a lawyer. In some cases, the negligent party who caused the accident will try and convince the victim that it is unnecessary to speak with an attorney. The negligent party may even make promises to “take care of” the victim’s damages without the need for them to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Golden Isles Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Lowie

Unfortunately, such promises may be nothing more than a delaying tactic. The negligent party may simply be trying to keep the victim from filing a claim until it is too late–i.e., after the statute of limitations has expired.

There are many deadlines a person needs to understand and comply with in a personal injury lawsuit. Perhaps the most critical deadline is the statute of limitations. In Georgia, an accident victim has two years from the date of the injury to sue the negligent defendants.

To give a simple illustration, let us say you are injured in a car accident that occurred on May 1, 2017. If you want to sue the other driver for damages, you need to make sure your lawsuit is filed no later than May 1, 2019. After that date, no Georgia judge can hear your case, regardless of its merits.

Herrin v. JC Penny Corporation, Inc.

In a typical personal injury claim arising from a car accident, the plaintiff is free to sue the defendant for damages at any time prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, which is normally two years for personal injury claims. However, when the defendant is a government employee, and the accident occurred while that person was acting in an official role, the plaintiff needs to jump through some additional hoops before a court will even hear the lawsuit.

For example, if you are injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of a Georgia county employee, state law requires that you present a claim to the county within 12 months. Basically, you need to give the county written notice before you can sue it. If you fail to comply with this notice requirement, a judge will dismiss any subsequent personal injury lawsuit based on that claim.

Moats v. Mendez

If you want to file a civil lawsuit against someone in Georgia, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations. This is basically the legal time limit to file a claim. For personal injury cases, Georgia’s statute of limitations is normally two years from the date the action “accrued.” For example, let us say you were injured in a car accident that took place on November 1, 2016. Under Georgia law, you need to sue the negligent driver no later than November 1, 2018. Even if you file one day past this deadline, the judge will throw out your case because legally, no court may hear a case once the statute of limitations has expired.

Williams v. Durden

However, there are certain events that can “toll” the statute of limitations. Tolling effectively stops the clock for a specified period of time. The burden is on the plaintiff to prove there is some legal grounds for tolling. In other words, do not assume you can simply file a personal injury lawsuit after the expiration of the two-year time limit unless you can cite a specific reason for tolling under Georgia law.

It is common practice following a Georgia car accident for the victim to negotiate a settlement with the negligent driver’s insurance company. Typically, the insurer agrees to settle for the policy limits in exchange for a “release of all claims” arising from the accident. Either party may also impose a deadline for the other to accept the terms of the settlement.

DeMarco v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently examined an unusual case involving the widow of a deceased accident victim who attempted to enforce a settlement agreement three years after the fact. The accident itself occurred 11 years ago, in July of 2007. The victim’s car was knocked by one vehicle into a third vehicle. The victim subsequently sued the owner and driver of the third vehicle for damages.

Guardrail accidents have gained increasing public attention in recent years. A guardrail is supposed to help a vehicle absorb the impact of a collision, but in far too many cases, it is the guardrail that causes serious injury or death. As reported by ABC News in 2014, a University of Alabama study found that “a re-designed version of a widely used guardrail end terminal ‘placed motorists at a higher level of risk of both serious injury and fatality’ than the original version.”

Stopanio v. Leon’s Fence and Guardrail, LLC

More recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed the potential legal liability of the state Department of Transportation and one of its private contractors for an allegedly defective guardrail. This tragic case began with a 2011 accident on I-75. The plaintiff was driving southbound on the highway through Valdosta. Traveling in front of the plaintiff was a second car containing her parents.

There is always some time limit applicable to bringing a lawsuit. This is known as the “statute of limitations.” In Georgia, for example, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is typically two years. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident on May 1, 2016, you have until May 1, 2018 to sue the negligent driver for damages. Even if you file just a couple of days after the statute of limitations expires, your case is barred as a matter of law.

Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC

While two years is the normal statute of limitations in Georgia, there may be situations in which a personal injury victim actually has less time to file a claim. Georgia courts have long recognized the rights of parties to “contract” away certain legal rights. According to a recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, this includes the time frame to file a personal injury lawsuit.

While personal injury cases arising from motor vehicle accidents tend to involve cars or trucks, it is important not to overlook other kinds of vehicles such as buses. For instance, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last December that there were “more than 700 accidents” involving school buses in Metro Atlanta during 2016–a rate of nearly two per day. These accidents resulted in over 300 injuries to students and teachers.

Croy v. Whitfield County

Bus operators, including school districts and public transit agencies, can be held liable for damages when driver negligence leads to passenger injury. Personal injury lawsuits against public agencies in Georgia are often complicated by additional notification requirements. Since the State of Georgia and its political subdivisions are normally immune from personal injury claims, plaintiffs must strictly comply with these requirements just to have their cases heard.

There is always some kind of deadline when it comes to a personal injury claim. For example, in product liability cases–i.e., a lawsuit against a manufacturer who produces a dangerous or defective item that injures someone–Georgia imposes a 10-year “statute of repose.” A statute of repose is similar to a statute of limitation. Both set a cut-off date for a plaintiff to bring his or her claim before the court.

Gaddy v. Terex Corporation

The 10-year statute of repose begins with the “first sale for use or consumption of the personal property” that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. So, let’s say you bought a car in 2008. You are later injured in an auto accident due to a defect in the car’s design. This means the statute of repose will expire in 2018.