When Can You File a Lawsuit?

If you are injured in an accident, oftentimes the last thing that may be on your mind is starting a lawsuit.  However, your injuries may be severely impacting your ability to work, to interact with your family and to live your daily life.  And, more often than not, if your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligence, your attempts to recover compensation from the other party’s insurance company may not be as successful as you would like.  That’s the time when you may have to consider filing a lawsuit to recover for your injuries.

When it comes to filing a lawsuit, timing is critical.  All states have a time limit for when a lawsuit must be filed.  This is called the statute of limitations which defines the time limits in which an individual may file a civil claim. This time limit ensures that claims are filed while evidence is still available, and it also prevents a party from threatening to sue long after a conflict has been resolved.

In Georgia, the statute of limitations varies significantly according to the type of claim. There is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injuries and fraud, while the state enforces a four-year statute of limitations for trespassing, debt collection, and injuries to personal property. A civil suit alleging libel or slander must be filed within one year, and medical or other professional malpractice claims must be made within two years or a maximum of five years after the act.

So, when does the statute of limitations take effect? Usually, the time period to file a lawsuit begins at the time of injury. However, the statute of limitations can also be “tolled,” or paused, in some instances.  For example, if the injured party was a minor under the age of 18 or mentally incompetent at the time of injury.

Deciding when to file a claim can be a balancing act. It is important to evaluate your injuries before filing a claim, as it may be difficult to fully understand the impact on your life at first. Although you should not resolve the case before you have a complete understanding of the damages caused by your injuries, it is crucial to keep the statute of limitations in mind.

Even if you are still receiving treatment for your injuries, you should consider beginning the process of filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance carrier.  Keep in mind thought that before you accept any settlement offer that comes from the insurance adjuster or defendant, you must determine whether you have reached “maximum medical improvement,” or MMI. This means that you are as healthy as you could possibly be after your accident, or that you and your attorney understand how to value the medical and financial impact of your injuries. Beginning the claims process before you have reached MMI is a good idea if you understand your damages clearly before you resolve the case.  This way if you are not able to timely resolve your claim before you have reached MMI, you can file a lawsuit to protect your right to be fully compensated.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, it is important to speak with an attorney who is experienced in handling accident claims.  There are many nuances of the law regarding personal injury lawsuits, and you need to be sure you have effective legal representation to ensure that you do not miss any deadlines that may affect the compensation you can recover for your injuries.

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