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Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims: Don’t Miss Your Window

Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims: Don’t Miss Your Window

May 21, 2024

You were traveling down a local street, or perhaps the interstate in Raleigh and then unexpectedly became entangled in an auto collision. Now, your life has been turned upside down. You have debilitating injuries that you may need surgery for, followed by rehabilitation, or perhaps you’ve suffered such serious harm that you have what are expected to be lifelong impairments. They may keep you from returning to life as you previously knew it. You may have even, unfortunately, lost a loved one in the crash. 

You undoubtedly want to hold the person who harmed you liable for their reckless actions. You understand that you may be able to seek compensation through our civil legal system. What you may be unclear about is what the statute of limitations for car accident claims is in North Carolina. 

It’s important that you don’t miss your window for filing a potential civil lawsuit in injury cases like car accident ones. So, what is the filing timeline that applies to cases like yours? Continue reading where we’ll explain.

When Should You File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Raleigh, NC?

Before we delve into statutes of limitations for NC personal injury lawsuits, let’s first discuss why you may want to take legal action in the first place. It comes down to recovering compensation for your crash-related losses from the person or entity who caused them. Some of the most common damages recoverable in cases like these include:

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Lost wages and lost future earning potential
  • Pain and suffering and other non-economic losses

Also, in filing a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving family members can generally recover funeral and burial costs and other types of compensation.

Filing Timelines in Car Crash Injury Cases

Individuals injured in car accidents generally have three years to file a civil lawsuit per North Carolina General Statutes §1-52. However, exceptions to this rule exist, such as under the following circumstances:

  • A minor was harmed: The statute of limitations applicable in car accident cases in North Carolina does not start for injured children until they reach 18 years of age. So, a person injured as a minor has until they’re 21 to file a lawsuit to recover compensation after an auto collision.
  • The crash rendered you mentally incompetent: Although rare, it’s not unheard of for doctors to place patients who have suffered head trauma, for example, in a medically induced coma. In those cases, a patient may be temporarily incapacitated. Also, it’s not uncommon for individuals who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), as another example, to initially be deemed mentally incompetent but for that designation to be removed as the heal. In situations like these, the statute of limitations would generally not begin counting down until once their legal designation was removed.

Filing Timelines in NC Auto Accident Cases Resulting in Wrongful Death

As referenced above, there are some cases where car crashes, unfortunately, claim victims’ lives. In those cases, the personal representative for the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death action on behalf of that individual’s surviving loved ones.

The statute of limitations applicable in preventable death cases like these is generally two years per NC General Statutes § 1-53(4). However, keep in mind that the filing timeline begins on the date of death. 

Insurance Claim Filing Deadlines and Statutes of Limitations Don’t Always Align

Most claims filed with insurers are settled through negotiation out-of-court, whereas civil lawsuits are often decided by a jury at trial. Thus, filing deadlines set by insurance companies may deviate from statutes of limitations applicable to civil lawsuits.

Making Sense of Filing Timelines Relevant to Your Car Accident Case

Before you can even consider pursuing an insurance claim or civil lawsuit, you must first determine if you have a valid claim. Once you do that, you’ll next need to decide whether it’s best to try to build a case, craft a demand letter, and negotiate a settlement or to proceed to trial and have a jury sort out liability (in the form of a verdict) and award. 

A Raleigh car accident attorney will be able to better advise you of the statute of limitations that may be applicable in your case after learning more about your accident and the impact it has had on you. Just be careful not to wait too long before reaching out to legal counsel to discuss your case, as it may make it hard to preserve necessary evidence to prove your case and also mean that the filing deadline applicable to your case passes you by, leaving you unable to make a financial recovery.

Our legal team at Paynter Law is available to speak with you regarding your rights. We offer free consultations, so call or email us to schedule a meeting with one of our car crash lawyers in Raleigh today.