The Statute of Limitations on Car Accident Lawsuits in North Carolina
After you’ve been injured in a car wreck, you are probably facing large expenses like medical bills, vehicle repairs, and replacing damaged personal property. Filing a car accident claim gives you the opportunity to be compensated, making it easier to deal with the financial consequences of your crash. While an auto accident claim can help you get compensation, it’s important to move quickly due to strict legal deadlines called “statutes of limitations.” In this article, the Charlotte car accident lawyers of the Ramsay Law Firm explain how the statutes of limitations affect auto accident lawsuits in North Carolina.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Car Accident Claims in North Carolina?
Before we continue, it’s important to emphasize that states have different statutes of limitations, which means that if you live outside of North Carolina, a longer or shorter time limit may exist in your state. Additionally, there are different statutes of limitations for different types of legal matters. For example, the statute of limitations for a case involving breach of contract will likely differ from the statute of limitations for a case involving criminal charges, even if both occur in the same county or city.
The statute of limitations has a slightly different purpose depending on what the underlying case involves, but in general, its role is to set a legal deadline. In the context of a personal injury case, such as a car wreck, the purpose of the statute of limitations is to set a deadline for the accident victim to file a lawsuit.
The statute of limitations on car accident cases in North Carolina is typically three years. The three-year period normally begins counting down on the date the victim is injured.
While the statute of limitations provides as much as three years to file a claim following an accident, it is unwise and risky to wait this long. In fact, the sooner the victim can file his or her claim, the better the odds of success will be. There are several reasons why it is beneficial to file a claim sooner rather than later, despite the fact that the statute of limitation grants up to three years:
- The sooner you begin preparing your claim, the lower the risk will be that key evidence could become lost, be forgotten, or start to physically deteriorate.
- The earlier you file your claim, the fresher and more accurate your memories of the accident will be. The same is true of many eye-witnesses who were present.
- The sooner your case begins, the sooner it will end – and the earlier you can potentially receive compensation. Every day you delay is another day you cannot receive compensation.
For all of these reasons, you should strongly consider speaking with a car accident attorney as soon as possible. Even if you are not initially sure whether you have a claim, an experienced personal injury lawyer can give you a realistic assessment of the situation and your potential options.
Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?
In most cases, the statutes of limitations provide up to three years for the filing of a car accident claim in North Carolina. Regarding fatal crashes, the statute of limitations on wrongful death is two years. However, there are several exceptions that could arise depending on the situation.
One example is an exception known as the “discovery rule.” Under typical circumstances, the deadline is three years from the date of injury. However, if the victim did not realize they were injured until long after the accident, the three-year deadline might prevent them from filing a claim.
The discovery rule tries to avoid this situation by extending the deadline in cases where the discovery of an injury is delayed. If the victim does not become aware of an injury until later, and the delay had a reasonable medical explanation, the three-year deadline begins counting down not from the date of injury, but from the date the victim learned of the injury.
The discovery rule sometimes arises in medical malpractice cases but is less common in car accident lawsuits due to the sudden, violent nature of most wrecks. The types of injuries that are typically caused by car crashes, such as lacerations and bone fractures, are almost impossible not to notice within minutes to hours of the accident. Since shock and adrenaline can make severe injuries seem less serious than they actually are, it is extremely important to have your injuries diagnosed and treated by a doctor right away – even if you think they are minor.
Charlotte Car Accident Attorneys Handling Personal Injury Lawsuits
If you or one of your family members was injured in a car accident in the Charlotte, NC area, get legal help from a trusted and experienced team of personal injury lawyers. At the Ramsay Law Firm, we have more than two decades of experience helping car crash survivors get fair compensation for their hospital bills, lost earnings, pain, and suffering, and other damages. For a free consultation, contact us online, or call our law offices at (704) 376-1616.