What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Georgia?

How long you have to file a Georgia personal injury lawsuit, when the time limit can be extended, and what happens to your claim if you miss the deadline.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

"How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia?"

If that question—or something like it—is what brought you here, you're in the right place. Starting with Georgia's two-year general rule, we'll walk you through the personal injury statutes of limitations you're most likely to encounter. In a few circumstances, Georgia extends the filing deadline, giving you more time to sue. We explain when and how that works. We'll close with a discussion of what happens to your claim if the statute of limitations expires before you file in court.

Georgia's General Rule for Personal Injury Lawsuits: Two Years

Georgia's general rule for "injuries to the person" is found in Ga. Code § 9-3-33 (2024). Unless a more specific deadline applies, you have two years, usually from the date you're injured, to file a Georgia personal injury lawsuit in court. This two-year rule applies to lawsuits involving:

This statute of limitations carves out a couple of exceptions from the two-year deadline.

  • Lawsuits for injuries to reputation—meaning defamation of character—must be filed within one year, usually from the date the defamatory statement was first made.
  • Suits for loss of consortium must be filed within four years from the date of injury or death.

Georgia's Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Georgia's basic medical malpractice statute of limitations, Ga. Code § 9-3-71(a) (2024), gives you two-years to sue. The clock normally starts running on the date of the malpractice-related injury or death. Different rules apply when:

  • a health care provider carelessly leaves a foreign object in the patient's body that the patient doesn't discover in time, (Ga. Code § 9-3-72 (2024),) or
  • the injured patient is younger than five years old. (Ga. Code § 9-3-73(b) (2024).)

Depending on the facts of your claim, figuring out how long you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit can be very complicated. Talk to a Georgia malpractice lawyer for advice specific to your case.

(Learn more about Georgia's medical malpractice laws, including the statute of limitations.)

Can Georgia's Filing Deadline Be Extended?

Sometimes, yes, Georgia law allows you more time to file your lawsuit. Keep in mind that these are exceptions to the statutes of limitations. It's up to you to convince the court that an exception applies, and that you should get additional time. Most often, the defendant (the party you're suing) will strongly object. Don't be surprised if the judge is skeptical, too.

The Discovery Rule

In most Georgia personal injury cases, the statute of limitations runs from the date you're injured. Because you usually know you've been injured at the time it happens, there's nothing unfair about starting the limitation period right then.

But what happens if you don't know right away that you've been hurt? The date of injury rule means your time to sue ticks away while you don't even know you have a legal claim. That's not fair.

The "discovery rule" is meant for just that situation. When you don't know you've been hurt, and there's no way you could reasonably discover your injury, the statute of limitations doesn't start immediately. Instead, it begins on the earlier of:

  • the date you discover your injury and what caused it, or
  • the date you should have discovered your injury and what caused it, had you diligently looked for signs and symptoms.

(See King v. Seitzingers, Inc., 160 Ga. App. 318, 320 (1981).)

You'll need legal counsel to represent you and make your arguments to the court if you're planning to rely on Georgia's discovery rule.

Defendant Is Absent From Georgia

Ga. Code § 9-3-94 (2024) says the statute of limitations doesn't run for any period that the defendant is absent from Georgia. Here, too, Georgia courts have limited the scope of this rule. It only applies when the defendant's absence from Georgia makes it impossible for you to start a lawsuit against them. (See Towns v. Brown, 177 Ga. App. 504 (1986).)

Ask your attorney if you can get "service of process" on the out-of-state defendant in your case. If you can, this extension won't help you.

Injured Person Is Legally Disabled

A person who's legally disabled can't manage their own legal affairs. For statute of limitations purposes, Georgia law considers to be legally disabled those who:

  • are younger than 18 years old, or
  • are intellectually disabled or mentally ill.

When a legally disabled person suffers an injury, the clock doesn't run until the disability ends. (Ga. Code § 9-3-90 (2024).)

These extensions don't apply in medical malpractice cases, except those involving children who were injured when they were younger than five years old. (Ga. Code § 9-3-73(b) (2024).)

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?

If you're worried that the statute of limitations on your personal injury claim has expired or is about to run out, try to stay calm. Your first call should be to a Georgia personal injury lawyer. Here's what you want to ask.

  • What is the statute of limitations for my case?
  • Has the time to file a lawsuit passed, or is it about to end very soon?
  • If my case is past the filing time, or nearly so, is there an extension available that might give me more time to sue?

When the time to sue has passed and you can't take advantage of an extension, unfortunately, you're out of luck. Your legal claim is dead. Nothing you do will bring it back to life. Try to file a lawsuit and the court will dismiss it as untimely. Worse yet, the defendant might ask the court to sanction (penalize) you for filing a frivolous action.

Things won't turn out any better if you're still trying to negotiate a settlement of your claim. Without the threat of a lawsuit to back you up, all your negotiating leverage evaporates. Because you can't force them to pay you anything, neither the defendant nor its insurer will take you seriously. Regrettably, you've lost the right to compensation for your injuries.

Get Help With Your Statute of Limitations Issues

The right to sue the party who's responsible for your injuries has value. Don't take needless chances with it. Trying to navigate your way through the statute of limitations without legal help is like trying to cross a busy highway while blindfolded. There's a real risk that things will end in disaster, and you probably won't know you've made a mistake until its too late.

A Georgia personal injury lawyer knows the state's filing deadlines and how they apply to your case. When you're ready to move on your case, here's how to find an attorney who's right for you. Don't delay, because time is the enemy of your claim.

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