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Georgia Supreme Court Addresses Statute of Limitations Defense in Injury Case

calendar-series-2-1192572Every personal injury case must be filed within a particular time frame identified by law. Failing to do so could result in the plaintiff losing an opportunity to recover damages for injuries sustained as a result of another’s negligence. Victims of vehicle accidents, including drivers and passengers in cars, trucks, motorcycles, or buses, must pay careful attention to the local laws applicable to their case. While it would seem to be one of the simpler legal rules to comply with, parties often overlook the time deadline while recovering from their injuries or caring for others who were also involved in the accident. Many people who have sustained injuries in a car or other vehicle accident seek the help of an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area. Doing so will serve to ensure that the case will be filed at the appropriate time, in accordance with state law.

It is important to know that certain actions can serve to “toll” or suspend the statute of limitations, but only under particular circumstances. In a recent case, Foster v. Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (Sup. Ct. of Ga. 2015), the plaintiff brought an action against the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (the “Authority”) for injuries she sustained while riding one of its buses. The defendant, the Authority, made a motion for judgment, contending that the Georgia Tort Claims Act (the “Act”) requires a claim to be filed within two years of the date of injury. Here, the Authority argued that the plaintiff filed her claim more than two years after the incident occurred.

The plaintiff asserted that she gave notice of her claim to the Authority pursuant to the Act and that by doing so, the statute of limitations period was tolled for as long as her claim was pending. She relied on Section 50-21-27(e) to support her position. This section states that all provisions concerning the tolling of limitations of actions shall apply to actions brought under the Tort Claims Act. The trial court denied the Authority’s motion for judgment based on the pleadings. But the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the tolling provision found in Section 36-33-5(d) did not apply to the plaintiff’s claim under the Act, citing the legislative intent behind the Tort Claims Act.

The Supreme Court of Georgia granted review of the decision, and while it affirmed the court of appeals decision, it based its conclusion on a different analysis. The Court reviewed what the legislature intended when drafting Section 50-21-27. Essentially, the Court noted that the language of the statute “means just what it says” – that statutory tolling provisions apply to claims brought under the Act in the same manner that they apply to other claims. Here, the question was whether the tolling provision of Section 36-33-5 was applicable to the plaintiff’s claim against the Authority.

The Court ultimately found that the statute, by its own language, allows the tolling of the period of limitation only for claims against municipal corporations. Here, the Court pointed out, the Authority is not a municipal corporation, and therefore the statute does not apply to any claim against the Authority.

Unfortunately, the plaintiff lost an opportunity to bring her injury claim against the defendant by failing to assert her claim within the relevant time frame. Furthermore, she spent a great deal of time litigating the matter of limitations, to no avail. This case exemplifies the pertinent need to consult with an experienced injury attorney when pursuing a negligence claim. 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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