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2021 Wrongful Death

Statute of Limitations for Georgia Wrongful Death Actions

When pursuing a wrongful death action on behalf of a loved one in Georgia, it is crucial to understand the importance of seeking legal advice before the statute of limitations expires. Under Georgia law, a legal representative of a deceased individual has two years from the date of the loved one’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are several circumstances under which the statute of limitations may be “tolled,” or extended,” for a longer period of time. Our Tifton wrongful death attorney explains the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in Georgia in more detail below. 

Why Do We Have Statutes of Limitations? 

While they may seem unfair to grieving wrongful death plaintiffs, statutes of limitations serve several important purposes. First, they encourage plaintiffs to file their suits quickly so as to expedite the administration of justice. Courts value efficiency and “judicial economy,” preferring to handle matters soon after they occur rather than years later. Second, statutes of limitations prevent prospective plaintiffs from hanging the threat of litigation over prospective defendants’ heads indefinitely, which unscrupulous individuals could easily exploit for the purpose of harassment. Third, and perhaps most importantly, statutes of limitations ensure that the facts and evidence at issue in a case are as fresh as possible. Long lapses between a serious accident and a lawsuit can result in faded memories, lost or destroyed evidence, and the death or incapacitation of witnesses. 

What to Know about Georgia’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims

The standard statute of limitations for personal injury actions, including wrongful death claims, is two years after the right of action accrues. This means that a plaintiff must bring a wrongful death action within two years of the date the death occurred. However, there are several circumstances under which the statute of limitations may be tolled: 

  • The statute of limitations for wrongful death actions arising out of the same facts and circumstances as criminal matters may be tolled until the prosecution of the criminal matter has become final but in no circumstances more than six years. For example, assume that a man is killed by a drunk driver who is then prosecuted for driving under the influence. The defendant’s criminal trial reaches its final resolution on a date that is three years after the victim’s death. The two-year statute of limitations for the victim’s representative to file a wrongful death action would begin on that date, as it was tolled for the duration of the prosecution.
  • The statute of limitations for wrongful death actions for individuals whose estates have not gone through probate may be tolled for up to five years to allow for administration of the decedent’s estate

When considering a wrongful death claim, it is important to keep these statutes of limitations in mind, as missing the deadline can result in the forfeiture of one’s legal claim. 

Contact a Tifton Wrongful Death Attorney for More Information 

Statutes of limitations can be confusing for potential plaintiffs, particularly those whose circumstances may justify tolling. For more information, please contact a Tifton wrongful death attorney at the Hudson Injury Firm by using our online form or calling us at 229-396-5845.