Whenever you are involved in a legal dispute—whether you are the person pursuing the claim or defending against it—you want to understand the basics about your case. This includes knowing how the claim and litigation processes work, the major laws that apply to your situation, and the strengths and weaknesses of your claim or defense. One important law you want to understand if you were injured in a premises liability accident is the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit against the negligent business or property owner.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Premises Liability Cases in Georgia?
The statute of limitations is the time period you have under Georgia law to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for your injuries. Many claims will settle without the need to sue the negligent party. However, you must know the statute of limitations in case your attorney is unable to settle your claim with the insurance adjuster for what it is worth. In that situation, you would need to file a lawsuit in court before the deadline to do so expires.
There are several different statutes of limitations that could apply in your case depending on the type of claim you are pursuing. These are the time periods that you need to follow:
- Personal injury. The time period to sue is two years from the date of your accident if your claim is for compensation for your personal injuries.
- Property damage. If your claim is for property that was damaged in a premises liability accident, such as an expensive cell phone, laptop, or piece of jewelry, the time period to sue is four years from the date of the accident.
- Wrongful death. When a person dies as a result of a premises liability accident, his dependents—usually his spouse and children—can file a wrongful death action for compensation for the loss of their loved ones. The statute of limitations in wrongful death cases is two years from the date of the death, not the date of the accident.
You should keep in mind that these time periods are for suing a business or property owner. If your claim is against a government entity, you will need to follow special rules regarding how long you have to notify them of your claim and file a lawsuit if they face liability.
Special Statute of Limitation Rules for Minor Children and Legally Incompetent Victims
Under Georgia law, there are certain exceptions to the requirement that an injured victim of a premises liability accident file his lawsuit within two years of the date of the incident. These exceptions are as follows:
- If the injured person is a minor, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of his 18th birthday.
- If the victim is considered legally incompetent under Georgia law, the statute of limitations is tolled—or stopped from running—until he becomes competent.
What Happens If You Wait Too Long to File Your Lawsuit?
If you do not file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations, you waive your right to do so. While you could still file a complaint in court after the deadline, the negligent party would most likely file a motion to dismiss it, which the court would grant. Even though there is no statute of limitations to file a claim with the negligent business’ or property owner’s insurance company, the adjuster is very unlikely to agree to settle your claim if he knows that you missed the deadline to file a lawsuit against its insured party.
Why You Want to Contact an Attorney Soon After Your Accident—Even If You Have Time Under the Statute of Limitations
While you may see no need to rush to contact an experienced premises liability attorney after your accident, you do not want to wait until close to the two-year deadline to contact him. Your case will be stronger if you retain an attorney right away. This gives him the opportunity to investigate the accident before steps are taken to hide or repair the dangerous condition and to interview witnesses before their memories of what happened fade. In addition, if the business had a surveillance camera, it may have recorded your accident. These tapes are recorded over frequently, so you need an attorney to contact the business right away to preserve the video recording before it is lost.
If you were hurt in a premises liability case, Brauns Law, PC is here to help you quickly investigate your claim and negotiate your settlement for you. Start an online chat to schedule your appointment with David Brauns to get your questions answered and learn about your legal rights.