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Georgia Supreme Court Interprets Statute of Limitations Provision Arising From Car Accident Case

calendar-series-3-544231-mCar accidents are a frequent occurrence in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia.  Because car accidents have the potential to cause injuries to innocent victims, prudent drivers typically secure insurance policies to cover future claims for damages. No two cases are identical, and depending on the specific circumstances and parties involved, there are various ways to pursue a claim for recovery of one’s losses.  Victims of car accidents who have sustained pain and suffering are entitled to maximize their right to compensation.  To do so, it is critical that you contact an experienced injury attorney who is fully aware of the local laws and procedural rules applicable to the case.

In a recent case, Hospital Authority of Clarke County et al. v. Geico General Ins. Co., Ga. Sup. Ct. (2014), the highest court in the state reversed the court of appeals, and in doing so, set forth its own interpretation of a statute of limitations provision applicable to recovery on hospital liens. The case emanated from a car accident that occurred in March 2010 between Justyna Kunz and Crystal, Joseph and Elizabeth Kalish. Kunz sought medical treatment at Athens Regional Medical Center.  The Medical Center and the Hospital Authority of Clarke County (hereinafter, the “Hospitals”) filed three separate hospital liens totaling $66,999.22. Kunz then sued the Kalishes, who were insured by Geico Insurance Company.

On September 10, 2010, in a letter to Kalishes’ attorney, Kunz accepted their $100,000 policy limit settlement offer. A short time later, on September 23, Kalishes’ attorney also sent a letter confirming the agreement and enclosed a settlement check for $100,000, along with the necessary documents. Significantly, the settlement agreement was officially signed on October 8, 2010, and in order for it to be effective, Kunz was required to satisfy the above-referenced hospital liens. According to the facts of the case, the liens were not satisfied.

When Geico failed to satisfy the liens, the Hospitals’ attorney initiated a lawsuit on October 6, 2011.  Geico responded by moving for summary judgment, arguing that the Hospitals’ action to enforce their liens was not timely, as it was not filed within one year of the September 10, 2010 settlement. The Hospitals argued that it was in fact timely since it was filed within a year of the October 8, 2010 execution of the release.  The court of appeals agreed with Geico, and held that under the Georgia State Statute, the Hospitals were barred by the one-year limitations period to collect on their liens. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed, pointing out that the language of the statute provides that the limitations period begins to run one year from the date of settlement OR release (as is applicable to this case).  Specifically, the Court noted that the settlement agreement here ultimately evolved into a final release.  Because of that, the Court found that the statute of limitations began to run on the date of execution, that is: October 8, 2010.

There are many technical details associated with any personal injury action, especially those that involve car accident cases and resulting claims under complicated insurance policies.  There is no overstating the need to consult with an experienced injury attorney who is well versed in the specific laws applicable to cases in and around the Atlanta area.

If you have been injured in a car accident due to another’s negligence, the first thing you should do after seeking medical treatment and contacting law enforcement is to contact an experienced Atlanta injury attorney as soon as possible. Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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