Traffic Ticket Does NOT Toll the Ante Litem Deadlines in Georgia

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in February 2020 and held that even though the tolling features of OCGA Sec. 9-3-99 still apply to the statute of limitations of 2 years on injury and death cases in Georgia, ante litem requirements are different and are not tolled. For years we operated in a strict world where if you missed the two years statute of limitations on a car accident case, that was it, case over. Then along came Harrison v. McAfee in 2016 and all of that changed. Crime victims could avail themselves of the tolling provision of OCGA Sec. 9-3-99 and add the amount of time the criminal took to resolve the crime to the 2 year limit. In other words if you were the victim of a crime, you could sue the perp within 2 years of the date plus the number of days it took for them to plea or be convicted. Oddly, that case involved a burglar who went into one of my favorite bars from law school in Macon and shot a customer.

Then the law stretched farther and the Courts ruled that this includes car accidents where traffic tickets are issued. In other words if the other party is ticketed then, you have two years to file the lawsuit plus the number of day it took the driver to resolve the ticket. During that time, the running of the statute of limitations is tolled (suspended or frozen).

Then came a case where the Plaintiff missed the 1 year ante litem requirement to sue the State of Georgia. There is a very specific law that lays out who you have to send notice to and what it must contain and it must be done within 1 year of the incident. OCGA Sec 50-21-26. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the ante litem notice was like a statute of limitations, so the OCGA Sec. 9-3-99 would toll it too. The decision was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court and they had a far more detailed dive into the nature of the Ante Litem requirements.

The beginning analysis is the fundamental statement that the Courts lack jurisdiction over the state until the ante litem requirements are met. In other words, if you fail to check the box, the State cannot be brought into court at all. It is not really a statute of limitations at all. The Supreme Court therefore held that the tolling statute does not pause the clock from running on entities that require ante litem notices like the State, Counties and Cities.