Georgia Supreme Court Issues Ruling Favorable to Victims of Crime

This past week, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a ruling that was favorable to victims of crime who have civil tort claims arising out of the criminal acts perpetrated against them. The Supreme Court held that the statute of limitations is tolled for victims of crime for any claims arising out of the criminal acts perpetrated against them until such time as the criminal prosecution of the perpetrator is terminated. See Beneke v. Parker, ___ Ga. ___ No. S08G2078, (2009).
What is interesting about this new Supreme Court opinion is that our law firm had written an article about the Victim’s Right Statute enacted by the Legislature and codified in O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99 over one year before this opinion was rendered. In this article which was published in the Georgia Trial Lawyers magazine “The Verdict”, our firm had presaged this opinion by stating that it was likely that the statute might protect victims of traffic crimes by tolling the statute of limitations in their cases. It was pointed out to members of Bar that if they had a case where there client had been victimized by a traffic violations they might be able to circumvent the statute of limitations by relying on the new statute. We specifically pointed out in our article that the Victim’s Crime Act could be used in cases where there were violations of criminal laws as pertains to the operation of a motor vehicle.
The lawyer in the Beneke case read our article and used our arguments to win this case for his client. In the Beneke v. Parker case, the Supreme Court held that the plain language of O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99 encompasses a violation of the Uniform Rules of the Road. The Court wrote to impose a more stringent definition of “crime” within the context of the statute would render superfluous its language that “the statute of limitation is tolled from the date of the alleged crime or “the act” giving rise to such action in tort” until the prosecution or other termination of such crime or “act.” In short, even a traffic violation which results in criminal charges being filed against the perpetrator can be used under this new statute to toll the statute of limitations for the victim of the crime until such time as the criminal perpetrator’s case has been disposed of in the criminal system.
To see a copy of our article, please hit the link provided for further detail on the possible impact this new statute may have on you or a member of your family if you are a victim of a crime.


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