The statute of limitations sets the time in which an injured
person must file his/her lawsuit, or it will be forever barred.
Determining when the statute of limitations expires is extremely
important. It is one of the very first things your lawyer
should do for you.
If you file a personal injury case after the statute of limitations
expires, it is virtually certain the case will be dismissed
and forever barred from being re-filed. It is extremely important
to know the statute of limitations in your case, as defense
attorneys routinely move to dismiss cases based on expired
statutes of limitation. It ends the case for their clients
quickly and cheaply.
In Georgia the statute of limitations for negligence that
causes injury to a person is two (2) years from the date on
which an injury or death arising from a negligent or wrongful
act or omission occurred. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-31. In Georgia,
minors and persons who are legally incompetent (such as mental
retardation) at the time of the event causing injury are entitled
to have the statute of limitation “tolled” until
the person becomes an adult or the legal incompetence no longer
exists. O.C.G.A. § 9-30-90. If a person suffers a disability
that causes legal incompetence after her or his right of action
accrues and the disability was not voluntarily caused, the
statute of limitations may be tolled during the disability.
O.C.G.A. § 9-3-91.
Georgia does allow other certain limited circumstances in
which the statute of limitations is tolled (suspended). These,
as well as all statute of limitations issues, must be analyzed
on a case by case basis.
In Georgia, if the case is against a governmental entity,
there are advance notice requirements (called “ante-litem”
notice requirements). This means that special statutory notice
requirements must be met within certain defined time periods
in order to be allowed to sue the governmental agency.
Understand that many attorneys will not agree to evaluate
or review cases where the statute of limitations may expire
within a few weeks or months. It can often take this much
time to assemble and examine important documents and medical
records. If an attorney takes a case too close to the applicable
statute of limitations, he or she may have to file the case
in order to preserve the statute of limitations without really
knowing whether it has merit. Generally, attorneys want to
avoid this situation.
Always ask your attorney for an opinion on the applicable
statute of limitations. Even if you think it’s not an
issue, you may be mistaken. That is not a mistake you want
to make, as blowing a statute of limitations can end your
case before it ever begins.