The statute of limitations sets the time in which an injured person must file his/her lawsuit, or it will be forever barred. Determining when the statute of limitations expires is extremely important. It is one of the very first things your lawyer should do for you.
If you file a personal injury case after the statute of limitations expires, it is virtually certain the case will be dismissed and forever barred from being re-filed. It is extremely important to know the statute of limitations in your case, as defense attorneys routinely move to dismiss cases based on expired statutes of limitation. It ends the case for their clients quickly and cheaply.
In Georgia the statute of limitations for negligence that causes injury to a person is two (2) years from the date on which an injury or death arising from a negligent or wrongful act or omission occurred. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-31. In Georgia, minors and persons who are legally incompetent (such as mental retardation) at the time of the event causing injury are entitled to have the statute of limitation "tolled" until the person becomes an adult or the legal incompetence no longer exists. O.C.G.A. § 9-30-90. If a person suffers a disability that causes legal incompetence after her or his right of action accrues and the disability was not voluntarily caused, the statute of limitations may be tolled during the disability. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-91.
Georgia does allow other certain limited circumstances in which the statute of limitations is tolled (suspended). These, as well as all statute of limitations issues, must be analyzed on a case by case basis.
In Georgia, if the case is against a governmental entity, there are advance notice requirements (called "ante-litem" notice requirements). This means that special statutory notice requirements must be met within certain defined time periods in order to be allowed to sue the governmental agency.
Understand that many attorneys will not agree to evaluate or review cases where the statute of limitations may expire within a few weeks or months. It can often take this much time to assemble and examine important documents and medical records. If an attorney takes a case too close to the applicable statute of limitations, he or she may have to file the case in order to preserve the statute of limitations without really knowing whether it has merit. Generally, attorneys want to avoid this situation.
Always ask your attorney for an opinion on the applicable statute of limitations. Even if you think it's not an issue, you may be mistaken. That is not a mistake you want to make, as blowing a statute of limitations can end your case before it ever begins.