When Are Criminal Statutes of Limitation Expanded?
Statutes of limitations are fundamentally about preventing unfair prosecutions or civil lawsuits. They’re based on the assumption that after a certain amount of time, valuable evidence or clear memories of the events that occurred could be lost, making it difficult or impossible to conduct a fair trial.
Despite the state’s rigid adherence to deadlines, Georgia does allow statutes of limitation to be extended, but only under specific circumstances. These extensions, which are referred to as tolling, can be granted under the following circumstances:
- Mental incapacity of the plaintiff
- Minority age (the plaintiff was a minor when the accident or injury occurred)
- Fraud committed by the defendant
Other deadline extensions may occur if the plaintiff suffered an injury or developed a medical condition due to a product defect but the problem was not discovered within the legal timeframe. Also, if the defendant left the state before the plaintiff had the opportunity to file a lawsuit, the countdown may be paused until the defendant can be served a court notice.
Tolling of Deadlines Due to Judicial Emergency
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many legal proceedings were affected negatively. Lockdowns and social distancing prevented many cases from going to court, especially civil cases like those involving personal injuries, property damage, or slander.
In March 2020, the Supreme Court of Georgia set in motion a suspension of deadlines due to a judicial emergency (O.C.G.A. §38-3-62). As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that a period of 122 days, or any portion of that period, between March 14 and July 14, 2020, would be excluded from the standard statute of limitations.
Georgia’s Statute of Limitations Period for Personal Injury Cases
If you’ve suffered a personal injury because of someone else’s ill will or negligence, you may be considering filing a lawsuit. You may also be wondering how long you have to file a personal injury case. Time is not on your side, and not just because of the time limit on litigation. The sooner you take legal action, the easier it will be for your legal team to gather evidence and investigate your situation.
In general, if you are a resident of Georgia, you have two years after the date of injury to file a personal injury case with the court (G.A. Code § 9-3-33 (2014). However, just like with the circumstances described above, Georgia law does allow the statute of limitations to be extended for certain personal injury cases. You may be granted an extension if you meet one or more of the following criteria:
- If your personal injury is the result of a crime, the statute of limitations may be paused for six years or until your perpetrator has been tried and convicted for the crime they committed (whichever one is shorter)
- If you’re suffering a mental or physical incapacity or are a minor, the statute of limitations may be paused until you have fully recovered or reached the legal age to file a lawsuit
- If you were a victim of fraud without realizing it, the statute of limitations clock won’t start to run until you discover the fraud
- If your spouse was badly hurt or killed in an accident, you have the legal right to seek compensation for loss of consortium (loss of companionship). The statute of limitations for loss of consortium is four years instead of two years.
The Importance of Prompt Filing in Personal Injury Cases
Here are some essential reasons why filing promptly is crucial in personal injury cases:
- Preserving evidence. The sooner you file a case, the easier it will be to gather and preserve evidence that’s critical to your situation and outcome. Evidence like photographs, surveillance footage, medical records, or eyewitness accounts can all be lost as time goes by.
- Witness statements. As time passes, witnesses’ memories of the incident can fade, making it harder for them to recall crucial details. Witnesses may also forget essential details that could help prove your case.
- Avoiding delays. When a statute of limitations expires, it’s challenging to persuade a court to hear your case.
- Avoiding surprise expenses. You’re trying to recover from an injury or grieving over the death of a loved one. Dealing with a lawsuit is stressful enough without the added pressure of worrying about deadlines.
Get Legal Help with a Personal Injury or Medical Malpractice Case in Atlanta
If you’ve suffered from pain, health problems, or a crippling disability due to someone else’s negligent actions, you may have a personal injury case. You could be entitled to compensation for the financial, physical, and psychological costs of your injury.
At the Dressie Law Firm, our dedicated and highly experienced injury lawyers are here to help you navigate the complicated personal injury legal process. We’ve helped many Georgia residents in Atlanta and across the state get justice and the compensation they deserve after an accident or injury.
Call 770-756-633 to schedule a free consultation.