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What Is the Statute of Limitations in Georgia?
State and federal courts have set time frames for filing civil complaints or criminal charges. Known as “statutes of limitations,” these time frames are designed to maintain the integrity of evidence, to promote diligence in plaintiffs, and to ensure fairness for defendants. While the exact time limits of the statute of limitations Georgia vary based on the type of civil claim or criminal charge, they tend to apply to most types of court cases that we handle here at The Law Ladies.
Knowing the statute of limitations for your case, whether it involves criminal law, business law, or personal injury, is vital to understanding your rights and navigating the legal process. Here, we outline the statutes of limitations for various types of cases in Georgia and how they may apply to your situation.
Criminal Law Statute of Limitations Georgia
The statute of limitations in criminal law sets the time period in which the state can pursue charges against the defendant in order to bring a case to trial. If you are accused of felony theft, for example, the state has 4 years from the time the crime occurred to officially charge you. If the state attempts to pursue charges 5 years after the act, you may be able to have the case dismissed based upon the statute of limitations.
In Georgia, there are two types of crimes for which there is no statute of limitations. This means that charges can be filed at any time for these crimes no matter how much time has passed since the crime occurred. The crimes with no statute of limitations in Georgia include all murder cases in addition to serious felonies such as rape, kidnapping, or armed robbery when provable with DNA evidence.
Under Georgia law, the statute of limitations for other types of crimes include the following:
- Rape: 15 years
- Crimes punishable by death or life in prison (such as kidnapping or armed robbery): Seven years
- Felonies against minors: Seven years
- Other felonies (such as theft or arson): Four years
- Misdemeanors (such as traffic offenses or disorderly conduct): Two years
In developing a defense strategy for “older” criminal cases, the statute of limitations is one of the first areas our lawyers will want to explore. In the right circumstances, the statute of limitations can be an important tool in having a criminal charge dismissed, so it’s always a good idea to consult a dedicated criminal attorney Atlanta to determine how the Georgia statute of limitations may apply in your case and understand your defense options.
Business Law Statute of Limitations in GA
In business law, there may be instances in which a business or professional will need to initiate a lawsuit against an individual or other entity. As in most areas of law, statutes of limitations apply.
The exact statute of limitations for business law claims depends on the type of claim being filed. Here is an overview of the business law statutes of limitations in Georgia:
- Libel and slander: One year
- Liens: One year
- Fraud: Two years
- Property damage: Four years
- Breach of oral contract: Four years
- Breach of written contract, including non-payment of debt: Six years
- Judgment enforcement: Seven years
In most cases, the statute of limitations simply begins on the date on which the wrongful act took place. However, there may be occasional exceptions, which we will explain further below.
Delays in filing a business lawsuit can limit or entirely eliminate your ability to acquire payment for damages triggered by another and can harm the financial success of your business. As soon as a dispute or prospective dispute emerges, it is best to seek advice from a skilled business lawyer Atlanta to explore your options. Sometimes, business-related conflicts can be dealt with without the need to file a lawsuit, but waiting until the statute of limitations is about to end can void the possibility of this alternative route. If this is the case, you must file a lawsuit as soon as possible.
Personal Injury GA Statute of Limitations
The purpose of personal injury law is to enable injured parties to obtain compensation for their damages. However, the more time that passes, the harder that is to do. To prevent this, the courts encourage victims in all types of personal injury cases, such as car accident claims, to take action as quickly as possible after the accident.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is typically two years for most bodily injury claims, including wrongful death.
These statutes of limitations generally begin from the date of the accident, injury, or death. Occasionally, in medical malpractice cases involving a missed diagnosis, the time limit to submit a claim might begin from the date when the condition was found because the patient had no other way to learn about the issue previously. However, Georgia has a five-year statute of repose on medical malpractice lawsuits. This means that no legal action can be taken after five years have passed since the act that gave rise to the injury, regardless of the amount of time that it took for the victim to recognize that malpractice occurred.
While the court can be asked to consider taking a case that has passed its statute of limitations, it is not likely to do so without an engaging reason. However, you shouldn’t let that stop you from pursuing your personal injury claim. Depending on the facts of your case, a passionate Atlanta personal injury lawyer from The Law Ladies may be able to help you construct a strong argument in your favor.
Exceptions to Statutes of Limitations in Georgia
While the above statutes of limitations apply to most cases, there are occasionally exceptions to these rules depending on the circumstances. In criminal law, for example, the statute of limitations can, in some cases, be “tolled,” i.e., stopped briefly and then rebooted in cases where the suspect has gone into hiding or does not reside in the state, as outlined by GA law code 17-3-2.
Business law claims can be even more complicated. In some circumstances, the statute of limitations Georgia begins on the date that the wrongful act caused damage to the complainant. For other types of claims, the statute of limitations begins on the date the complainant finds out about or should have found out about the act. For example, under the breach of written contract Georgia statute of limitations, debt collection lawsuits may only be filed within six years of the beginning of the debtor’s non-payment.
Like in business law claims, the Georgia statute of limitations for personal injury claims is not always straightforward. With the help of our attorneys, you may be able to argue one of the following exceptions to extend the standard two-year statute of limitations in your case:
- The accident caused serious disability or lack of consciousness, which prevented the victim from being able to take legal action. In this case, the statute of limitations might begin from the time at which the victim regained awareness or cognitive ability.
- The victim was a minor. Usually, the statute of limitations begins with the date on which the victim turns 18. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the claim for medical expenses incurred by a minor is owned by the minor’s parents. In this case, the standard statute of limitations applies.
- The injury or damage was not found until a later time.
Ask an Attorney About the Georgia Statute of Limitations
In nearly all types of legal cases, the Georgia statute of limitations will play a major role in the case’s timeline and outcome. If you are interested in pursuing a civil claim involving personal injury or business disputes, you will want to file your claim as soon as possible to prevent the statute of limitations from running over. If you are facing criminal charges, the statute of limitations may impact whether the court can prosecute you. In any case, consulting a trusted Atlanta attorney with extensive experience helping people like you is essential to understanding your rights and options.
To find out more about how the statute of limitations may apply in your criminal law, business law, or personal injury case, contact The Law Ladies today.
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