Whether it’s a car wreck, a fall, an animal attack, a collision with a commercial vehicle, a claim for nursing home negligence, or some other type of personal injury claim, the law requires you to bring your claim within a certain amount of time. Law dealing with time are called statutes of limitations. Each state (and the Federal legal system) has its own statutes for how, when, and where you have to bring your claim. If you fail to settle your claim or properly file a lawsuit before the statute expires, your claim is dead, and you cannot recover anything, ever. There are a few exceptions to this, but probably less than one case in one hundred thousand can be saved if the statute has expired. Understanding your time limitations is a critical reason to have an attorney review your claim to help you determine what your rights are and how much time you have to protect yourself.
A tricky thing about limitations is that they are different based on the type of claim you have, and multiple statutes can apply to one claim in some circumstances. Overall, in North Carolina you have three years from the date of injury to settle your claim or file suit. If the claim is for wrongful death, that time period is shortened to two years. However, what if a friend or family member is hurt, but then does not die from their injuries until days or even months later? The wrongful death statute typically runs from the date of death, but there are exceptions, and until you have a professional review the facts of the case, it’s VERY dangerous to try and figure out the statute on your own. These timelines can differ if the injury happened on land owned or leased by the Federal government, such as a military base or military cemetery. Workers compensation claims have a different set of limitations as well, and are typically much shorter than statutes for personal injury claims against another person or company.
If the injury is to a minor child, or to an adult who has been determined to be incompetent and has a guardian or is in a treatment facility, multiple dates and statutes can apply. The statute is typically tolled (meaning it’s placed on “hold”) until the minor turns 18. However, any claim for medical expenses for a minor actually belongs to their parents, and the statute on that part of the claim runs three years from the date of injury. There are ways to get around the shortened time on those claims, but, once again it’s important to have a lawyer look at your case and tell you what the timeline is. This can’t always been done instantly, and may require the review of medical records, police reports, facility reports, or other documents. Many attorneys are also reluctant to get involved in a case that may be very close to the statute of limitations, because there is significant risk and the potential for huge expenses (such as retaining experts quickly, getting reports back in a hurry, hiring investigators, etc.) if the injured person has waited to investigate their rights.
At the Miller Law Group, our attorneys pride themselves on knowing the law and knowing how to get you the answers you need as quickly as possible. Even so, the best way to protect your rights is to contact an attorney as soon as you have a claim, or think you may have one. If you, a family member, or a friend has been injured, contact the Miller Law Group to determine whether you have a claim, and how long you have to assert it. At the Miller Law Group, personal injury consultations are free, and we do not get a fee unless we get you a recovery.