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Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Claim in Georgia

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Posted By Legal Team | March 29 2024 | Car Accidents, Personal Injury

All states place time limits on how long after suffering an injury the injury victim can file a lawsuit to recover compensation for damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This time limit also applies to car accident claims. A time limit—or statute of limitations—serves important purposes. First, it ensures that evidence is still available and eyewitness testimony remains reliable when a case goes to court. Also, a time limit protects defendants from living under an indefinite threat of a lawsuit.

If you’ve had a car accident in Georgia, it’s important to understand how Georgia’s statute of limitations for car accident claims affects your case.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Georgia Car Accident Cases?

In Georgia, injury victims have up to two years from the date of their car accident to file a lawsuit. Many people new to the process ask, “Isn’t two years plenty of time? Why would anyone wait that long?”

The answer often involves clearing up a common misconception. Injured victims in a car accident typically file a claim soon after an accident. Working with a skilled personal injury attorney in Atlanta, this claim seeks compensation from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance coverage. Then, an investigation takes place during which the insurance company assigns an adjuster to the case who investigates with the purpose of finding ways to protect company profits by minimizing the amount they have to pay out on a claim. In fault-based insurance states like Georgia, this incentivizes the insurance company to blame an injury victim for contributing to the crash. For example, they might claim that the victim was 25% responsible for their injuries because they were exceeding the speed limit by 5 miles per hour, even if their client ran a red light. In this way, they can lower a $100,000 compensation claim by 25% and pay only $75,000.

When a car accident victim and their attorney cannot negotiate an acceptable settlement amount with an insurance company after an accident because the insurer maintains that the injury victim contributed fault to the accident, the injury victim can file a lawsuit and let a jury decide. It’s the lawsuit and not the initial claim that must be filed within two years from the accident date. If the statute of limitations expires, a court will simply toss out the lawsuit.

Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in Georgia?

In limited circumstances, the state can “toll” or delay the statute of limitations and allow a case to go to court beyond the two-year time limit. Some reasons for tolling the time limit include the following:

  • If an injury victim was a minor at the time of the accident, they have up to two years from their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit
  • If a car accident victim is unconscious or incapacitated for some time after the accident, the statute of limitations begins on the date they regained awareness or cognitive ability
  • If the at-fault driver flees the scene or commits fraud to cover up their fault for the accident, the injury victim has two years from the date they are apprehended or the fraud is discovered
  • Finally, when a car accident victim doesn’t discover an injury connected to the accident until some time later, the statute of limitations begins on the date of discovery, or when they should have reasonably discovered the injury.

An example of delayed discovery occurs when a car accident victim thinks they are uninjured but later a doctor diagnoses the victim’s nagging backache as a herniated disc from the car accident. The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit begins on the date of discovery.

If you have questions about how Georgia’s two-year statute of limitations affects your case, an Atlanta car accident attorney can help.

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