A frequent question we get is how long do I have to file my lawsuit after a car wreck and when is it too late? In Georgia, the operative law is OCGA 9-3-33 which provides that you have 2 years from the date of the incident to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, it does not matter if you have been in negotiations with the insurance company; the case is over and you are not getting paid for your loss.
The statute of limitations is tolled (extended or frozen) and does not start running until a minor hits 18 years old. So if a child is in a car accident, they can wait until age 18 plus 2 years to file their suit. Now be careful because under Georgia law, the parents hold the claim for medical bills. That means that although the minor can still sue for pain and suffering after the 2 years, they cannot present the medical bills portion of the claim. OCGA 9-3-90
Traffic Tickets will Toll the Statute of Limitations
Thanks to a ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court in Beneke v. Parker 285 GA 733 (2009. This is huge. It means that if you miss the two year statute of limitations on a car accident case, you have more time to file if the defendant was issued a ticket. You have the number of days it took from the date of the crash until the ticket was resolved or tried. In one case we handled, the DUI case went on for 2 years so it was 2 years for the statute plus 2 years for the tolling based on the ticket. We were able to successfully recover four years after the crash.
Ante Litem Notices and Suing the City, County or State
Claims against Cities, Counties and the State have another layer of deadlines that you have to watch out for too. They are just as deadly as the statute of limitations and they can sneak up even faster.
When you have a claim against a city, you must put the city on formal written notice of the potential for a lawsuit within 6 months of the date of the incident. OCGA 36-33-5
Counties require ante litem notice within 1 year of the incident. OCGA 36-11-1
The State of Georgia requires notice within one year as well. OCGA 50-21-26
Remember, this is going to apply to any case where you are hit by county vehicles, you trip on a sidewalk, you crash after hitting a pothole. Be very careful if any kind of government is involved.