How Does The Georgia Statute Of Limitations Apply To Minors And Estates?
There is always a time limit to file a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia. This is known as the statute of limitations. For personal injury cases, such as a lawsuit arising from a car accident, the limitations period is generally two years from the date of the accident. If someone is killed in a car accident, their estate and surviving heirs similarly have two years from the date of the person’s death to initiate legal action.
Georgia Appeals Court Refuses to Dismiss Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Alcohol Servers
But what if the person entitled to file a wrongful death claim is still a minor? Or what if the decedent’s estate is not immediately established? How does the factor into the statute of limitations?
A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Somani v. Cannon, addressed these questions. In this case, a husband, wife, and their minor daughter were all killed in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. The accident occurred in November 2014.
The deceased couple had one surviving child, a son who was nine years old at the time of the accident. In 2015, another family member adopted the child and was named his legal conservator in 2018. Also in 2018, this same relative was named permanent administrator for the deceased mother’s estate.
In 2015, a temporary administrator filed a wrongful death lawsuit against multiple defendants. That case ended in a financial settlement. In June 2020, the conservator and permanent administrator filed a new wrongful death lawsuit, this time naming the parties that sold alcohol to the drunk driver on the night of the fatal accident as defendants. (Under Georgia law, a seller or a “social host” can be held legally responsible for serving alcohol to a minor or an intoxicated adult who subsequently causes an accident.) The defendants moved to dismiss this lawsuit, arguing it was filed past the two-year statute of limitations.
But as the Court of Appeals explained, the statute of limitations can be suspended or “tolled” under specific circumstances. In this case, the minor child’s claim was tolled until he reached the age of 18. So even though the prior 2005 lawsuit was filed by his legal guardian, that did not affect the “clock” on the statute of limitations for this more recent lawsuit.
Similarly, the statute of limitation is tolled “between the death of a person and the appointment of a representative” for their estate, for a period of up to five years in Georgia. This refers to the appointment of a “permanent administrator,” the court noted. As described above, a permanent administrator was not named for the mother’s estate until 2018. So the statute of limitations did not start to run on the current lawsuit until that time.
Speak with an Atlanta Car Accident Attorney Today
When it comes to any type of personal injury claim, you should not delay in asserting your legal rights. An experienced Atlanta wrongful death lawyer can review your case and advise you of your rights. Contact Shiver Hamilton Campbell today to schedule a free consultation.