All civil actions come with time limits. The state dictates these time limits. While most states stick with a one or two-year policy, you must realize that there is also the “discovery rule,” which dramatically changes the time frame of individual wrongful death cases.
Naturally, you should speak with a wrongful death attorney regarding your case to see what time frames apply to your case.
What is the “Discovery Rule” in a Wrongful Death Case?
The statute of limitations, which is the time within which you must file your wrongful death case, does not always start at the date of a loved one’s death. Instead, the courts uphold that the statute begins when the person filing the wrongful death lawsuit discovers, or reasonably finds that the death occurred because of another’s negligence.
Therefore, the courts allow the limitation period for that wrongful death action to start at the time of death or injury. However, if the plaintiff did not know the cause of their loved one’s death until later, then the time starts at the date that they were so informed.
What are the Time Limits for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Savannah?
Georgia’s statute of limitations limits how long you have to file a wrongful death claim. Claims must be filed within two years of the date of the death.
Sadly, in Savannah, Georgia, the two-year limit is upheld. Therefore, if you have not filed within that two-year limit, you most likely will lose your case.
The two-year clock does extend in rare situations. For example, in a criminal trial, the time continues if the criminal court is still dealing with the criminal aspect of the death. Once the criminal case has completed, the two-year period starts from the date the case is closed.
Another exception to the rule is with the probate court. If the estate has not been probated, then the courts allow a five-year extension. Therefore, in some cases, a wrongful death may not be filed for up to seven years after the death.
When is it Wrongful Death in Georgia?
Because Georgia does not use the discovery rule like other states, it is important to know what qualifies as a wrongful death. The state defines a wrongful death as any death caused by someone’s intentional, reckless, negligent, or criminal acts. Of course, it is always wise, if not critical to speak with an attorney to see if your case qualifies.
Like a standard personal injury case, you must prove that negligence or criminal acts resulted in the death. That is why the statutes allow you to extend the deadline passed the date of a criminal case. Even if the criminal trial is lost, and the defendant is found not guilty, that does not bar you from filing a wrongful death lawsuit and eventually winning. However, it may be more difficult if the not guilty verdict is introduced as evidence.
Speak with a Wrongful Death Attorney in Georgia First
After the death of a loved one, the last thing you would think of is filing a wrongful death lawsuit. However, when a spouse, sibling, or child is taken from you unexpectedly, the courts do allow you a chance to seek compensation in particular situations.