There is little more challenging than losing a loved one. When coping with
such a loss–and the sometimes profound way it will change your life–the
last thing you want to think about is a lawsuit. But any family member
who has lost a loved one due to the negligent or intentional acts of another
should understand that there is a time limit, known as the statute of
limitations, for filing such a legal claim. Those who delay too long may
lose their right to be compensated for their losses.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
The term “statute of limitations” refers to the legal rules
that define when you can bring a lawsuit against someone. After an event
occurs (e.g., the event that may lead to a lawsuit), a potential litigant
has a certain period of time to file the lawsuit. If the litigant fails
to file the lawsuit within the period time, he or she may be permanently
barred from pursuing any claim.
Generally, actions for injuries to the person shall be brought within 2
years after the right of action accrues, except for injuries to the reputation,
which shall be brought within one year after the right of action accrues,
and except for actions for injuries to the person involving loss of consortium,
which shall be brought within four years after the right of action accrues.
O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.
There are times when a statute of limitations may be tolled (postponed
or suspended) thus allowing the party additional time to file the claim.
For example, the period of limitation may be postponed before starting
to run, or suspended after once having started, under the following circumstances:
personal disabilities of the plaintiff (i.e. minors and legally incompetent persons);
absence of defendant from the state;
fraud of the defendant;
discontinuance or dismissal; or
pending criminal prosecution of the defendant.
Because the time period for which you may bring a wrongful death action
depends on the circumstances of your case, it is essential that you speak
with an experienced
Atlanta wrongful death lawyer right away. The wrongful death attorneys at Goldstein and Hayes, P.C.,
have years of experience helping people navigate the Georgia legal system
following the death of their loved one.
The Purpose of a Time Period
If a potential litigant fails to file a claim within the statute of limitations
period, he or she will be barred from ever filing a claim regarding the
matter, even if the potential litigant has been seriously injured. This
may seem like a harsh rule. Its purpose, however, is to ensure that parties
in a lawsuit have access to necessary evidence. If a person waited many
years or decades to file a lawsuit, parties in the case may have a difficult
time locating witnesses, examining accident scenes, and otherwise gathering
necessary evidence. The time period further grants parties a certain finality
that after a certain period of time they no longer need to worry about
facing a lawsuit.
The Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Action
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is typically
two years. This means that if your loved one has died as a result of the
negligent or intentional actions of another, you have just two years from
the time of that death to file a lawsuit or you may lose your right to
Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be some exceptions
to this rule. In some instances, you may have two years from the time
that you discovered the cause of death (as opposed to two years from the
time that your loved one died). For example, if your loved one’s
death was categorized as an accident, but later evidence determined that
the death was due to the negligence of another, you may have two years
from that discovery to file your claim.