In Georgia, lawsuits seeking compensation for personal injuries must generally be filed within two years of the date of injury. This limitation on the time to file an injury-related lawsuit is appropriately referred to as the Statute of Limitations. While there are certain facts and circumstances that may affect the limitations period, these “exceptions” do not apply in most cases. In the vast majority of injury-related lawsuits, the two-year limitation period will apply. This means that most personal injury lawsuits are subject to dismissal if not filed within the two-year period.
Although the Statute of Limitations provides two-years within which to file an injury-related lawsuit, waiting too long to contact an experienced personal injury attorney can negatively affect the strength of the case. At first glance, it seems like an injured person has plenty of time to commence legal action against those potentially liable. After all, two years is more than enough time to contact an attorney to handle the injury claims. Given this amount of time, an injured person may be tempted to wait to contact a lawyer until he or she has completed medical treatment and daily life has returned to a relatively normal state. But, a deeper look into the realities of injury-related claims reveals that these cases are usually best served by the involvement of an experienced attorney early in the process.
The accuracy and availability of evidence is an important reason to contact an attorney soon after an injury. During the time immediately following an incident that results in injury, witnesses are typically easier to locate and have a clear, accurate recollection of the incident. In addition, documents and other evidence (e.g. photographs, video recordings, etc.) relevant to the incident or the resulting injuries may be obtained or preserved for later use. But, as time wears on, evidence may begin to dissipate. Witnesses may move away or become difficult to find; or their memory of the incident may weaken causing them to forget important details. In addition, documents and other evidence may be lost or destroyed in the course of normal business practices. Getting an attorney involved soon after an injury can help ensure that evidence is properly obtained or preserved.
Another reason to contact an attorney soon after an injury is to ensure that all potentially liable parties are identified. Often, the apparently responsible party is not the only party with potential liability. For example, a person who slips and falls in a store due to a puddle of liquid on the floor may presume that the store owner is the solely responsible party. But, if the puddle was created by a cleaning company, then the cleaning company may also be held liable. If the cleaning company’s potential liability is not discovered until after the expiration of the two-year limitations period, then the claims against the cleaning company may be lost. This provides the store owner an opportunity to blame the cleaning company in an effort to avoid or reduce the store owner’s liability. Meanwhile, the injured person is unable to assert claims against the cleaning company. Involving a personal injury attorney shortly after an injury can help prevent this sort of predicament.
The sooner an attorney becomes involved in an injury-related claim, the sooner the attorney can begin investigating, preserving evidence, and finding all potentially liable parties. This helps to ensure that all of an injured person’s claims are identified, evaluated, and supported by evidence. Though Georgia law generally affords an injured person two years to file a lawsuit, there is no reason to wait to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Waiting to contact an attorney not only delays compensation for an injury, but can also negatively affect the strength of the case. So, if you have been injured due to the carelessness of another, seek the medical care that you need immediately and then contact an attorney as soon as possible to safeguard your claims against those responsible.