North Carolina laws set very important deadlines for filing your personal injury lawsuit. These deadlines are known in Court as the “statute of limitations” laws. They are called that because they limit how much time you have to sue. After the legally allowed period for you to sue has expired, you as the injured person may lose the right to file a lawsuit to recover monetary damages or other relief, unless a legal exception applies. A statute of limitations is said to start running at the time a claim “accrues.” Typically, that is the time at which the injury occurs. There are a number of different statutes which apply a limitations period and they can vary from State to State. Thus, it’s important to consult with a qualified North Carolina personal injury attorney to determine which statute applies and preserve you right to recover damages. Often, the facts of how someone is injured involve more than one State. For example, you might have your home in North Carolina, but you go on a road trip into Virginia. If you get in a car wreck while you’re in Virginia, which statute of limitations should apply – the one for North Carolina or the one for Virginia? These kinds of issues can get complicated pretty quickly which is all the more reason to contact a lawyer so that you as the injured victim can know your rights. To make matters more complicated, there are also special laws called “statutes of repose” that may also apply. A statute of repose can set another time limit on when to bring a claim. In North Carolina, our legislature has determined that the following time limits generally apply to bringing certain claims in court. Keep in mind that it may be possible to bring multiple claims arising from a single incident. Also, there may be an exception to the standard limitations period that applies to a specific situation. Accordingly this list is for general guidance only and it is important to consult with an attorney. Below are a few examples of statutory periods in North Carolina:
- Personal Injury: Negligence claims must be brought within three years of the date when the bodily harm was or should have been apparent. However, all negligence claims must be commenced within ten years after the date of the act giving rise to the injury. This law is found in North Carolina General Statute Section 1-52, abbreviated as N.C.G.S. § 1-52. An example of a personal injury claim might be if you or a loved one gets in a motor vehicle accident and is injured.
- Professional Malpractice: Generally the victim of malpractice has three years to sue but this might be extended to a longer time depending on the facts. For example, if the injury was something that was not readily apparent when it happened, the victim may have some extra time to sue after he discovers the injury. But the amount of extra time may be limited. The statute for malpractice claims is very complicated and you should consult an attorney to see how they apply to you. The statute is N.C.G.S. § 1-15. An example of a malpractice claim would be if you went to a hospital for a surgery, and you were injured because of medical malpractice.
- Defamation/Libel/Slander: Oneyear. N.C.G.S. § 1-54. An example of a defamation claim would be if a newspaper printed that somebody was a mass murderer when in fact they were never charged with a crime and never did such a thing.
- Trespass: Three years. N.C.G.S. § 1-52(3). An example of a trespass might be if some neighbors cut down trees in the woods on your property and put down a dirt bike trail. Sometimes if a trespass comes and goes, or happens, then stops, then happens again, a new time period to sue begins each time.
- Products Liability: A lawsuit for negligence for a product defect must be brought within three years of the injury or loss, and a claim for breach of contract must be filed within three years of the breach. Additionally, a product liability lawsuit must also comply with the twelve year statute of repose, meaning that the suit may have to be brought within twelve years of the product’s initial purchase, unless an exception applies or the matter does not fall within the scope of the statute. N.C.G.S § 99B, § 1-46.1, § 1-52. An example of a product liability claim might be if someone was injured in an airplane crash and the airplane crashed because of a manufacturing defect in its engine.
- Injury to Personal Property: Three years. N.C.G.S. § 1-52(4). An example might be if you owned a forklift, and someone came and took out an engine part so that now you could not use it.
- Fraud: Three years. The time may be extended if the fraud took a while to be discovered. N.C.G.S. § 1-52(9).
- Contracts: Three years. The three year period may begin to run when the contract is breached. However, sometimes language inside of the contract itself can shorten or lengthen the time. N.C.G.S. § 1-52(1). An example would be if Joe agreed to pay Sam $50 a month to buy his boat, but then stopped paying midway through the contract.
- Wrongful death: Two years. N.C.G.S. § 1-53.
There are many other legal rules that can affect the time period you have to bring a claim. For example, a victim of the asbestos-related disease of mesothelioma may not learn that they have the disease until years after they worked around asbestos. The victim also may not even have known that there was dangerous asbestos where they worked. Therefore, in North Carolina, like in many other States, the Courts have allowed victims to sue after they learned of their disease. Sometimes, the law will provide for extra time if you were a minor child when the harm happened. Sometimes, the law provides for extra time if the victim did not know at first that they were injured. There are many other wrinkles in the law. The bottom line is that if you believe that you have been injured or your legal rights have been violated and that you have a claim, you should act promptly to protect your rights. It is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as your personal injury occurs. If you have any questions about North Carolina’s statute of limitation laws, contact us today for a free consultation at 800.849.5291.
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