Every state has its own set of rules that will affect personal injury lawsuits in that state. While some laws may apply to every personal injury case, others are more specific. Usually, it is the type of claim that will dictate which regulations apply in a particular case.
It can be a real challenge to navigate these different laws on your own. That’s why if you or a loved one is injured due to an accident, you’ll want to contact an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney.
However, anyone considering a Georgia personal injury lawsuit should have a basic knowledge of the Georgia state laws that may apply in a personal injury claim.
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Deadline for Filing Personal Injury Claims
Each state has statutes of limitation—laws that set deadlines for filing legal actions.
Georgia law (GA Code § 9-3-33 (2014)) states that “Actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues.”
That means that plaintiffs filing lawsuits involving car accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, or other personal injury cases have a two-year deadline to file their claim. In most instances, the countdown begins at the time of the incident.
If you lost a family member in a tragic accident, you must also file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years to be eligible to receive compensation for losses resulting from your loved one’s death.
It is vital to adhere to Georgia’s statute of limitations in personal injury cases. Anyone who tries to file a claim after the deadline will likely lose the opportunity to receive any compensation for their losses.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
In certain instances, a filing deadline may be extended. This is known as “tolling” the statute. This may be done, for example, in cases where a minor has been injured. Sometimes an extension is warranted if you did not discover the injury right away.
A knowledgeable Georgia personal injury lawyer will be able to advise you on how statutes of limitation may apply to your specific case.
Following an accident, immediately contacting a personal injury law expert is in your best interest. You should never assume that there is enough time for you to file your claim.
And, the sooner your lawyer can start investigating your claim, the better chance you have to recover the maximum amount of compensation you’re owed. Right after an accident is when you (and any witnesses) are more likely to remember what happened.
Wrongful Death Statute
Unfortunately, many accidents cause fatal injuries. Like many states, Georgia has a separate law with special requirements for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. A spouse, parent, or child of someone killed in an accident may be able to recover damages after their loved one’s death.
A wrongful death lawsuit is similar to a personal injury lawsuit, but its purpose is to compensate the victim’s family for the financial and emotional damage they suffered as a result of losing their loved one.
You might also file a survival action. This is a lawsuit filed by the personal representative of the deceased. Family members of those who lost loved ones in fatal accidents often file wrongful death and survival claims. These can be complex lawsuits, so be sure to consult with a reputable Georgia personal injury attorney.
Georgia’s law on punitive damages will determine whether you are able to seek other damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury case. Punitive damages are awarded in rare cases not to compensate the victim, but to punish the defendant for extremely reckless or malicious behavior.
Georgia’s Sovereign Immunity Statute
Sovereign immunity protects government agencies and employees in Georgia from liability in most cases. Your ability to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit is limited or prohibited.
Suppose a city worker in a city vehicle strikes your vehicle while working. In this case, sovereign immunity applies. However, if that same worker hits you while in their personal vehicle while not working, the sovereign immunity statute will not apply.
Georgia’s sovereign immunity statute can affect your injury claim in two ways:
1. The statute of limitation changes as a result of sovereign immunity. The deadline for filing a lawsuit may be reduced to as little as six months in a claim against the government or a government worker.
2. Administrative claims may be necessary because of sovereign immunity. In cases against the federal government, administrative processes outside of court are required so that the government has an opportunity to settle your case. These claims are usually not resolved and ultimately end up in court, but that first step will still be required.
Georgia Law on Shared Liability
In some instances, after you’ve filed your personal injury suit related to an accident, the defendant will try to blame you for the accident.
Georgia is a state with comparative negligence rules. This means parties share liability based on their role in causing the accident. You may see a reduction or an elimination in damages if it is determined that you are at fault, even partially.
Consider this example:
Suppose another driver hits you as you cross an intersection, and it is determined that the driver had run a red light. You may assume that the other driver is 100% at fault in the accident.
Now suppose that you were driving 10MPH above the posted speed limit when the accident occurred. In that case, it may be determined that you were 10% liable in the accident while the other vehicle driver was determined to be 90% responsible.
According to modified comparative negligence rules in Georgia, the damages you collect will be reduced by a dollar amount equal to your percentage of liability.
In the above case, if you were found to be entitled to $10,000, you would receive $9,000 (10% less). In Georgia, if your share of blame in the accident is 50% or more, you won’t be entitled to any compensation.
Georgia courts must apply comparative fault rules in each injury case when both parties share fault. The issue is also likely to come up in settlement talks with insurance adjusters.
Other Georgia Laws and Statutes May Affect Your Personal Injury Case
These statutes aren’t the only laws that may impact your Georgia personal injury claims. There are numerous case law examples and statutes that may play a role in your lawsuit. That is why accident victims must work with an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney.