If you're thinking about filing a personal injury claim in Georgia, it helps to get a basic understanding of the state laws that could come into play.
A law called a "statute of limitations" applies to all civil lawsuits filed in Georgia's court system. Georgia Code section 9-3-33 says: "Actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues." That means, after any kind of accident, an injury claim must be filed within two years. The clock usually starts running on the date of the accident.
It's crucial to understand and abide by Georgia's statute of limitations in injury cases, because if you try to file your lawsuit after the two-year window has closed, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it, and you'll lose your right to get compensation for your injuries. The filing deadline could be extended in certain circumstances. Talk to an experienced Georgia attorney for details on how the statute of limitations applies to your situation.
Note that if your injury occurred due to the negligence of an employee or agency of the government (whether at the local or state level) in Georgia, you'll need to play by a different set of rules if you want to get compensation for your losses. The first step is usually to file a formal claim with the proper government agency, and give them time to respond. Get the basics on injury claims against government entities.
In some cases, when you try to file a court case or insurance claim after suffering an injury, the other party will turn around and claim that you're actually at fault for the accident. Georgia's modified comparative fault rule reduces or eliminates damages if you're found to be partly or mostly at fault for your accident. Here's an example:
You're driving through an intersection when you're hit by a driver who ran a red light. You were traveling 10 miles per hour above the speed limit at the time. It's determined that the other driver was 90 percent at fault for the accident, and you were 10 percent at fault. Georgia's modified comparative fault rule reduces your damages by an amount that is equal to the percent of fault assigned to you. Here, if your damages equal $10,000, you'll receive $9,000, or $10,000 minus $1,000 representing the 10 percent of fault assigned to you. Note that you will not be able to recover anything at all if your share of fault for the accident meets or exceeds 50 percent.
In Georgia, courts are required to apply the comparative fault rule in injury cases where both parties are found to share the fault. Don't be surprised, however, if the issue also comes up in injury settlement negotiations with an insurance adjuster.
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Georgia however, a specific statute (Georgia Code section 51-2-7) makes anyone "who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal" liable if they allow the animal to run free and injure someone. The statute specifies that a "vicious" animal could simply be one that the law requires be kept on a leash, so mere violation of a leash law could give rise to liability in Georgia if someone is injured by the off-leash animal. Learn more about dog owner liability for bites and other injuries.
Some states have caps on damages in personal injury cases. These laws limit the amount of compensation an injured person can receive for certain types of losses, or in certain kinds of cases. In 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that damage caps violate the right to a jury trial established in the state constitution, so there are currently no restrictions on how much compensation a personal injury plaintiff can receive in Georgia's courts (although judges may still be free to reduce excessive awards in certain cases).
This article provides an overview of certain laws that could come into play in a personal injury case in Georgia. For a full understanding of your best course of action after an injury, learn how to find the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case.