What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in NC?
The National Safety Council (NSF) reports that more than 40 million Americans seek medical attention for an injury every single year.
Dealing with the aftermath of a major accident can put a serious amount of physical, emotional, and financial strain on a victim and their family.
If the accident was caused by the negligence of another party, the victim may be entitled to financial relief to pay their medical bills and to provide support to their family.
If you are considering bringing a personal injury claim, it is crucial that you understand the statute of limitations that apply to the case. At Dawson & Albritton, P.A., our North Carolina personal injury lawyers are strong, aggressive advocates for injured victims. We are prepared to help you and your family through the entire legal process.
Here, our legal team provides an overview of the personal injury statute of limitations in North Carolina.
NC Statute of Limitations Personal Injury: Three Years
The statute of limitations is the legal term that is used to define the time period during which a plaintiff has the right to file a claim. Under North Carolina law (N.C. Gen. Stat. section 1-52), most personal injury claims must be filed within three years from the date of the injury. As a general matter, this applies to all claims based on negligence. You must be sure to initiate your claim within three years.
For example, imagine that Mary is involved in a fender bender on July 1, 2019. She is injured in the accident and suffers a broken arm along with a traumatic brain injury. Under North Carolina’s law, Mary has until July 1, 2022, to bring a lawsuit in court. If she is even one day late, then she is outside the statute of limitations period.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
However, the statute of limitations for personal injury in NC is subject to certain limited exceptions. Specifically, this includes:
- Tolling for Minors: Under North Carolina law, the statute of limitations will not run on minors. Instead, the three-year statute of limitations clock will begin to run on a person’s 18th birthday. So if a child is injured at age 12, he or she has until age 21 to file a lawsuit.
- Medical Malpractice (Allowance for Reasonable Discovery of Injury): Medical malpractice claims — including dental malpractice claims and pharmacy malpractice claims — are somewhat unique. With medical negligence cases, it is not always possible for the victim to know that they were harmed due to a health care provider’s error. For example, a patient might have been given medication that ultimately causes cancer to grow, but years have passed from the date they received the medication. If the patient could not reasonably discover that they suffered harm right away, they may have up to three years to bring their claim. However, this statute of limitations has several exceptions, and patients do not have an indefinite amount of time to sue. An experienced medical malpractice attorney should be consulted to determine the statute of limitations in a medical malpractice case.
- Wrongful death claims: Under North Carolina law, wrongful death claims are subject to a strict two-year statute of limitations. Family members of the victim do not have three years to take action. It should also be noted that a wrongful death claim is a ‘derivative’ claim, and thus it may be subject to a secondary, shorter statute of limitations. Because the estate’s personal representative files the lawsuit, family members should stay on top of the deadline and seek legal representation, if necessary.It is important not to delay meeting with an attorney under the mistaken belief that one of the exceptions applies to your case. In reality, many exceptions will not apply, and you must have your case filed in the correct court before the limitations period runs out.
What Happens If You Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline?
The NC statute of limitations personal injury filing deadline is critically important. If you miss the deadline, you may be out of luck. When plaintiffs file a personal injury claim after the statute of limitations runs out, the first move by the defendant is likely to be an immediate motion to dismiss the case. Unless there is valid legal cause to allow the claim to move forward, the court is likely to dismiss the case.
Simply put, this means you will not be able to recover compensation for your injuries. The merits of your case will not actually be heard. Instead, a plaintiff who fails to take action in the required amount of time will lose their entire case on a legal technicality. Please do not let this happen to you or to your loved one. If you were hurt in an accident in Eastern North Carolina, it is imperative that you consult with a Greenville personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Why Does North Carolina Have a Statute of Limitations?
The rationale is that courts should not decide disputes using stale evidence. The statute of limitations gives injured victims an incentive to get into court promptly, which also provides notice to the defendant that he or she should preserve evidence as well.
After the passage of several years, people’s memories begin to fade and documents and other physical evidence can go missing. It is very hard to reconstruct what happened 5 or 10 years after the event, so the statute of limitations will cut off a person’s ability to sue.
Speak to a Greenville, NC Personal Injury Attorney Today
At Dawson & Albritton, P.A., our North Carolina personal injury lawyers fight tirelessly to protect injured victims. If you or your loved one was injured as a result of the carelessness or recklessness of another party, our legal team can help. We have brought many successful wrongful death cases and are prepared to put our experience to work for your benefit.