Statute of Limitations for North Carolina Car Accidents

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The statute of limitations is a deadline by which you need to file a lawsuit in court against the driver responsible for your car accident. Different types of claims have different statutes of limitations.

You Have Three Years to File a Lawsuit

In North Carolina, you have three years from the date of your car accident to file a lawsuit against the defendant. This deadline applies to most car accident and also premise liability cases. North Carolina gives injured accident victims more time to file lawsuits than other states that have a two year statute of limitations.

This lengthier statute of limitations than other jurisdictions is valuable when you do not realize that you have been injured right at the time of the accident. Some car accident injuries take time to become apparent.

For example, you may have been involved in a rear-end car crash and suffered from whiplash. This common car accident injury may begin to show symptoms weeks or months after the accident. You may not have realized that you were injured at the scene of the accident or on the day of the crash. Further, you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury that takes time to impact you.

The statute of limitations still begins on the date the wreck happens. You have an obligation to be diligent in discovering your own injuries. If you begin to show symptoms, you should get medical care. You cannot ignore the signs of an obvious injury for too long.

The Statute of Limitations Is a Jurisdictional Matter

The statute of limitations puts an outside boundary on when you can file a lawsuit for your car accident injuries in court. The statute is a jurisdictional matter. If the deadline passes and you have not filed a case, you lose the chance for a court to hear your case.

The judge cannot consider the merits of your case. They must dismiss the case (on their own if no motion to dismiss is filed) because they do not have jurisdiction over it.

The statute of limitations is a hard deadline. There is no flexibility. When the law says three years, it means exactly three years, and not three years and one day. If you miss the deadline by even a day, it will end your ability to receive financial compensation for your injuries.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

There are a small handful of limited exceptions to the statute of limitations, but you should not count on one of them applying. Courts are very strict about the deadline and do not often consider exceptions. Further, the burden of proof is on you to show that the exception applies in your case.

Exceptions to the statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits include:

  • If a claim is to be filed against a government agency or employee, it must be within two years of the event
  • If the injured party was under 18 at the time of the car accident
  • If the injured party was not competent to file a lawsuit
  • If the defendant left North Carolina for part of the three-year period (this mostly only applies to members of the military)

You are not considered “incompetent” to file a lawsuit by virtue of being injured in the car crash. The legal system still expects you to pursue a lawsuit diligently, despite your injuries. Your attorney can handle the details of your claim, allowing you to focus on your health and your recovery.

In reality, while you should be paying close attention to the statute of limitations, you should not wait anywhere near that long to begin the legal process in your car accident case. It takes time to investigate and develop your car accident claim.

Why File a Lawsuit As Soon As Possible Following a Car Accident Injury?

Finding an experienced car accident lawyer that fits your case takes time. Your lawyer will also need time to research the accident, evaluate what actions to take, and prepare your claim, among other things. Evidence needs to be acted upon promptly before it disappears.

It’s also a matter of witnesses. Both their memories of the event and your own may lose reliability over time. Since witnesses to your car accident may become unavailable, it’s imperative to pursue a lawsuit as soon as your car accident injury is apparent

Call a Wilmington Car Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash, the attorneys at Horton & Mendez will work hard on your behalf for you to receive financial compensation if you legally deserve it. We will keep watch on the relevant deadline so there is no additional stress added to your plate. Call us today at (910) 668-8067, or reach out to us online to schedule your free initial consultation.


What happens if I do not know that I am injured right after the accident?

Assuming that you were diligent about getting medical care, the clock starts to run at the time of the wreck.

How long will my case take once I file a lawsuit?

It is difficult to give an exact estimate. All we can say is that your case can take months or years to complete.

How much is the average car accident settlement?

Your car accident settlement check depends on the extent of your injuries and your own individual situation. You are not an average accident victim.

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