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Don't forget the ticking clock if considering civil action

TV crime drama fans may know the term "statute of limitations." It represents the time beyond which prosecutors can't charge someone for an alleged crime. For example, the statute of limitations for alleged misdemeanors in Georgia is two years. The more serious the crime, the longer the window of prosecution opportunity. For murder, there is no statute of limitations.

Many might be surprised to learn that civil action statutes of limitations exist, too. The reason is twofold. First, as in all legal cases, evidence is vital and imposing limits ensures that the facts related to a case remain viable. Second, statutes of limitations assure potential defendants they won't be under threat of lawsuit indefinitely.

There's a need to know the limits

Just as time limits for prosecution of criminal charges vary, so they vary for civil cases. A debt collection effort or a claim of damage to personal property due to trespass can be initiated for up to four years in Georgia. Personal injury claims, however, must be brought within two years of an occurrence. That includes wrongful death claims.

You can see this in action in a case now developing in Florida. The parents of one 14-year-old boy are suing the family of another 14-year-old boy. The two teen friends disappeared exactly two years ago on July 24. They were last heard from heading out to do some deep-sea fishing on a speedboat owned by one of the boys. According to official reports, they apparently got caught in a squall and were never seen again. They're presumed dead. Like in Georgia, the statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death suit is two years.

Based on news reports, it appears the crux of the plaintiff's case is that the defendant parents negligently allowed the boys out on the open sea without adult supervision, against the plaintiff's wishes. The defendant parents deny any responsibility. Public statements from them note they lost a child, too.

Depending on how things proceed, a jury could make the final decision.

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