One of the most complicated issues that can arise in any personal injury case is the statute of limitations application for filing a lawsuit in court. There are specific rules that govern when a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit can be filed in North Carolina. And while the amount of time is relatively set at a standard amount, the issue of when the “clock” actually began counting can be complex. For most accident cases it is a clear-cut determination, such as an auto accident case where a victim is obviously injured and there are no personal fault issues. However, there are still cases where the limitations statute can be problematic.
Beginning The Statute Of Limitations Clock
The first issue with determining if a statute of limitations has expired is determining when the “clock” began counting. This generally starts as soon as the injured victim realizes there is a medical problem. Some injuries are not so apparent at first, and many times they do not manifest until some time after the fact. With an auto accident, this is usually established by the accident report timestamp and medical records associated with the accident timeline. There are cases where the representing car accident attorney will want to wait until medical treatment procedures are well underway, but injured victims can be assured they will be watching the statute clock when determining the right time to file.
There is also a concept associated with limitation statutes regarding stopping the clock, also known as “tolling” in the legal industry. Injuries that have seemingly healed may not actually be as rehabilitated as they appear, and it may be necessary to suspend the limitation period. This is relatively rare, but it does happen from time to time in certain injury cases that could have long-term implications. There are actually some specific situations where tolling could be requested and accepted by the court when any claim is filed.
There are several situations that will allow the statute of limitations to be interrupted or not begin until a later date. One is when the injured victim is under 18 years of age. Minors can fall under different rules as determined by the North Carolina court system. Another issue is incarceration, as those who are in jail often do not have access to the civil law system until released. Mental incompetence can also be justification for filing a claim outside of the traditional codified filing window for personal injury claims. Additionally, those who are in the military can request a waiver of the time limitations statute when they are serving on active duty.
Wrongful Death Cases
Another issue with an expiring statute of limitations is when the injury eventually results in death in a gross negligence case. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in North Carolina is usually three years. However, the time limit for wrongful death claims is two years. This means that determination of when the statute clock begins can be an issue again when a wrongful death claim could be available, which is a situation that can be avoided beforehand with comprehensive representation by a professional car accident attorney.
Contact our legal offices for a case evaluation
While it is always best to retain legal counsel and file a personal injury claim as soon as possible following an accident, the opportunity to file is still available for most injured victims for a three-year period. However, the longer an individual waits, the better chance for a reduced settlement. Anyone who is involved in an accident in North Carolina should contact our offices as soon as possible for a full accident evaluation by a professional car accident attorney. Injury cases in North Carolina can be very difficult legal tasks, and we have a professional knowledge of the accident liability law.
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