Statute of Limitations
Every personal injury lawsuit must be brought within a limited amount of time of an injury under the Georgia Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations limits the amount of time that a plaintiff may bring a lawsuit. If the plaintiff fails to bring his or her lawsuit within the time allowed by the Statute of Limitations, then the lawsuit is forever barred and the plaintiff may never recover.
The Georgia General Assembly enacted the Statute of Limitations to prevent the unfairness that would occur if defendants were forced to defend lawsuits years after the injury occurred. Over time, documents are lost and memories fade, meaning that the jury has a more difficult time discovering the actual truth. The law favors stability. By requiring that all lawsuits be brought within a certain amount of time, the law ensures that the best quality evidence and testimony is available to discover the truth.
There are certain instances when the court will “toll” or extend the amount of time to bring a lawsuit under the Statute of Limitations. The purpose of this is to protect those who either do not have the mental capability to bring a lawsuit or do not have access to the courts. This means that in certain limited situations, the Statute of Limitations period can be extended for minors for example. If the plaintiff does not qualify under one of these extremely limited circumstances, then a failure to bring suit in the Limitations period will lead to a forever loss of any right to recover.
The time to file a lawsuit under the statute of limitations may also be extended by the amount of time it takes the plaintiff to discover the injury. This is most common in medical malpractice cases where the plaintiff does not realize that some procedure caused an injury until the symptoms of that injury begin to develop. To prevent doctors from having to defend lawsuits in the future, the legislature has adopted a statute of repose – meaning the lawsuit will still be barred even if the injury is not discovered well into the future.
Finally, if the plaintiff’s potential lawsuit is against a government entity (whether local, state or federal), the plaintiff is required to give ante litem notice soon after the injury. Ante litem notice is an official notice to the government that a lawsuit is coming. Failure to send the ante litem notice to the correct government entity containing the appropriate language soon after the injury will forever bar the plaintiff’s right of recovery against the government. A plaintiff with a potential case against any government entity needs to speak with a plaintiff’s lawyer immediately.
Ultimately, the Statute of Limitations serves to prevent defendants from fearing a lawsuit after a period of time in the future. The Statute of Limitations, however, can forever take away a plaintiff’s right to sue if he or she does not act quickly. Call a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer immediately to make sure your rights are protected from the Statute of Limitations deadline.