Q: I was hurt because of somebody else's negligence. How long do I have to sue?
A: While it's always best to consult with an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney about your particular case, the general statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is two years under Georgia Code § 9-3-33. However, depending upon the type of case (and other factors), the time for making a claim could be significantly shorter.
Q: How does the type of case affect the time for filing suit?
A: Some kinds of personal injury cases, specifically professional malpractice and product liability lawsuits, also have a statute of repose. This is different from the statute of limitations and can further limit the time for filing a claim. For example, a person who is hurt by a defective product generally has two years to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the faulty product. However, since the Georgia statute of repose for product liability claims is 10 years from the date of first sale, the plaintiff's actual time to sue might be less than two years. Keep in mind that it is the shorter of the two time periods (the statute of limitations and the statute of repose) that controls when suit must be filed.
Q: Can you give an example of how that would work in an actual case?
A: Sure. Let's say that someone bought a new car in July 2009 and was hurt in a wreck caused by a defective ignition device in September 2017. Going by the statute of limitations alone, that person would have until September 2019 to file suit. However, due to the 10-year statute of repose for product liability claims, the case would need to be filed by July 2019. In this example, the statute of repose effectively shortens the statute of repose by about two months. Sometimes, however, a plaintiff may only have weeks or even days in which to sue. After the 10-year statute of repose has expired, a plaintiff will most likely be barred from any recovery at all.
Q: So a claim can be barred before it even happens?
A: Unfortunately, yes. Unless the plaintiff meets one of the very narrow exceptions to the statute of repose, his or her claim may be barred before an accident even occurs. However, it is possible that an exception could apply, so a person who is hurt by a dangerous product should consult with an attorney before giving up on his or her case. For instance, a manufacturer of a product that results in a birth defect may not be able to rely on the statute of repose, nor may a manufacturer that is found to have shown a willful, reckless, or wanton disregard for life or property.
Q: Are there any other factors that go into the determination of when a claim must be filed?
A: There can be, depending on the case. Claims against the government, medical malpractice cases, lawsuits involving minor children, and situations in which fraud may have occurred all have special rules. Since each case is unique, it is best to speak directly with an experienced accident attorney about your case. To find out more about your Atlanta personal injury case, call the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, at 678-894-4758 today.