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Statute of Limitations – How long do I have to file an auto accident claim?

Riddle Brantley LLP   |  January 19, 2015   |  

“Statute of Limitations” is a common phrase and very important legal term. In North Carolina the period of limitation is determined by a statute created by our legislature. It prescribes a period of time within which a claim or cause of action (otherwise your case) must be resolved by settlement or suit must be filed. Once the period has expired any lawsuit filed may be dismissed for failing to comply with the statute of limitations; therefore, it is important that your case be settled or for a lawsuit to be filed within the appropriate statutory time frame. Losing your right to pursue a civil action due to the statute of limitations can be unfair, but most North Carolina attorneys that handle personal injury cases ranging from auto, trucking, pedestrian and motorcycle accidents are familiar with the prescribed statutory time periods.

Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the accident. Whether your case involves an auto accident, tractor trailer accident, dog bite, slip fall in a store, or any other injury caused by someone else’s negligence, the time period to file suit in NC is three years. The actual wording of this law can be found at NCGS section 1-52(16). http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_1/GS_1… Please note that if your case settles before the expiration of this time period then this period of limitation will not impact your claim.

Some common causes of action that have a 3 year period of limitation are as follows:

  1. Actions for injury caused by the negligence of someone else (auto accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle or motorcycle accidents, dog bites, slip and falls)
  2. Intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress
  3. Malicious prosecution
  4. Actions for excessive force against an officer or actions against an officer for a trespass under color of his title, 42 USC sections 1981, 1983, and 1985.
  5. Actions for fraud or mistake
  6. Assault, battery and false imprisonment. http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_1/GS_1…

Other important time periods for other types of actions that are less than 3 years are as follows:

  1. Wrongful Death 2 years ( this means that even if the case is an auto case, you have 2 years following the date of the accident to settle or file suit) http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_1/GS…
  2. Libel, slander (defamation) 1 year http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_1/GS…
  3. Retaliatory discharge or demotion in violation of the Workers’ Comp Act 6 months http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_1/GS…

There is one main exception to a Statute of Limitation. The limitation does not begin to run against a person who is under a disability when the cause of action accrues. NC recognizes disabilities based on minority (being under the age of 18) and incompetency. The statute is tolled until the disability is removed or expires. These situations can be very complicated and you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling injury cases as to whether a true disability tolls the statute. In a lot of our cases, the disability involves a person who is under the age of 18. Even in these cases, we recommend consulting with an attorney as soon as possible, but definitely prior to the expiration of the 3 year statute of limitations, because the cause of action for medical bills incurred during the minor’s period of minority may expire and bar recovery for some medical expenses.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss any question you have concerning the Statute of Limitations or any other question concerning your case. We look forward to hearing from you.