Laws that limit the time in which you can bring certain claims or lawsuits after an injury, loss, or other event takes place are called statutes of limitations. These laws are designed so that potential defendants are not in a perpetual state where they can be sued or prosecuted at any time. The laws serve to bring legal claims to court before evidence is lost or memories diminished over time.
Why the Statute of Limitations Is Important
In Georgia, if you have a legal claim such as breach of contract or you've suffered an injury, you may be barred from pursuing a legal remedy if you fail to bring your claim within the prescribed time limit for that claim. There are exceptions that may toll the statute in certain cases.
Similarly in criminal matters, the state may not prosecute you for certain crimes after expiration of the applicable statute of limitations for that criminal act.
It is essential that you do not hesitate in filing, or at least contacting an attorney, if you think you have a legal claim. To determine the statute of limitations that applies in your case, you must decide the type of claim you have and when your injury or loss occurred. If you may have committed a crime, you have to determine when the act occurred so you can challenge a prosecution.
Criminal Statute of Limitations
Georgia has a variety of statutes of limitations depending on the type of crime allegedly committed. Like all other states, there is no statute of limitations for murder. For other crimes, the limitation periods vary according to the seriousness of the offense or the age of the victim:
- Capital crimes or life imprisonment: seven years
- Rape: 15 years
- All other felonies: four years
- Misdemeanors: two years
- Felonies against victims under 18: seven years
- If the victim is under 16 years of age: When the victim turns 16 or the crime is reported to the state, whichever is earlier, for crimes like rape, sexual battery, or armed robbery
- If the victim is 65 years of age: When the crime is reported or discovered by law enforcement, whichever is earlier, up to 15 years from the act
If DNA evidence is used to identify an offender in cases of armed robbery; kidnapping; rape; or aggravated child molestation, sodomy or sexual battery; the statute of limitations does not apply.
The statute is tolled if the crime is unknown or the identify of the perpetrator is not known.
Civil Statute of Limitations
The Georgia statute for personal injury claims is two years, although if you are under 10 years of age, the statute begins to run after you turn 10. A cause of action for loss of consortium, which normally accompanies a personal action case, is four years. If a foreign object was left in your body after surgery, you only have one year to file from the date the object is discovered.
The discovery rule in Georgia can extend the statute of limitations in personal injury claims to the date you either knew or should have known of the injury or the cause of the injury.
Actions for breach of a written contract is six years and for an oral contract, you have four years. The limit for defamation claims is one year. Claims for destruction or damage to personal property is four years from commission of the act.
You may bring a compensation claim for childhood sexual abuse within five years after you reach the age of majority.
Consult a Georgia Lawyer
There can be confusion about which statute of limitations applies to your claim and if there are exceptions. Speaking to a Georgia attorney for your particular claim can help you determine if it is timely or if other claims may be filed within the applicable statutes.