Every victim of a car accident is entitled to pursue compensation if the accident was caused by another driver’s negligence. Acts of careless driving, such as texting while driving or speeding to beat a red light, are negligent. While most insurance claims for injuries caused by a driver’s negligence settle out of court, it takes some time for claims to be resolved. Since settlements are final and cannot be reopened, accident victims should not settle until they know the full extent of their injury, including whether the injury will fully heal. Injury victims can bring a lawsuit if the case does not settle. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are deadlines for filing a car accident lawsuit. When an accident victim fails to file suit before the deadline expires, the right to sue for compensation is lost.
The Georgia laws that create lawsuit filing deadlines are called statutes of limitations. Each state creates a statute of limitations for any kind of legal claim that can result in a lawsuit. A car accident lawyer is in the best position to advise injury victims about the statute of limitations that applies to their case.
General Statute of Limitations for Georgia Car Accident Lawsuits
The Georgia statute of limitations that applies to lawsuits for injuries or death caused by negligent driving is two years from the date of the accident. There are, however, certain exceptions to that general law. One exception applies if the injury victim was a minor. When an injured passenger or driver was under the age of 18 at the time of the accident, the two-year period for filing a lawsuit does not begin until the victim reaches the age of 18. In effect, victims of car accidents who are minors have until the day they reach age 20 to file an injury lawsuit.
A similar exception applies if the injury victim is unable to file a lawsuit because of a mental disability. The two-year limitations period does not start to run until the victim recovers from the disability. As a practical matter, a guardian will typically bring the lawsuit on a mentally disabled victim’s behalf.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations for Georgia Car Accident Lawsuits
While it is often wise to file a lawsuit within two years of a car accident, that deadline is tolled when the negligent driver’s violation of a traffic law caused the accident. Running a red light is an example of a traffic crime that might cause the statute of limitations to be tolled. When a time period is “tolled,” the time period does not run. In essence, the time period pauses until the tolling ends.
Prosecution for a traffic crime tolls the limitations period from the date of the accident until the date the charge is resolved. Charges are usually resolved by a conviction or a dismissal. Once the charge is resolved, the two-year period for bringing a lawsuit begins to run. However, the period for filing a lawsuit cannot be tolled for more than six years. Even when no charge is filed, the limitations period is tolled if a charge could have been filed.
Other Exceptions to Georgia’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits
On rare occasions, it may be possible to bring a lawsuit against an out-of-state driver in the state where the driver resides. The statute of limitations in that state might be longer than Georgia’s. Most of the time, however, if the accident occurred in Georgia, the Georgia statute of limitations will apply regardless of the negligent driver’s residence. A Georgia car accident lawyer can calculate the applicable deadline for filing a lawsuit. Contacting a lawyer immediately will ensure that everything is done to protect the accident victim’s rights.