The North Carolina Statute of Limitations for civil actions sets a time limit after an injury or civil wrong occurs, during which an injured party can file a lawsuit. After that period of time expires, the injured party is no longer permitted to file a claim in a North Carolina state court to litigate that matter. The statute ensures that lawsuits that have merit and worthy of being heard are filed within a reasonable time or not at all.
How Does the Statute of Limitations Operate?The period of time to file a claim will vary depending upon the type of incident that occurred. A claim against a doctor for medical malpractice may be for a different length of time than against an accountant for negligence or fraud. The North Carolina statute of limitations can generally be found within the North Carolina General Statutes, Article 4 and Article 5, Chapter 1 and covers the following rules and exceptions in greater detail.
When does the North Carolina Statute of Limitations Begin?Other than for specific exceptions, the North Carolina statute of limitations generally begins to run at the time when a "cause of action arises" - in other words, at the time when an injury occurs that would qualify for a lawsuit to be filed in a North Carolina state court.
What is the Discovery Rule?There are times when a person is unable to discover that they have been injured. For example, fraud that is concealed by an accountant and is not easily discoverable or a medical condition resulting from a doctor's misdiagnosis that can only be detected after the patient's health deteriorates. It wouldn't be fair or reasonable to require the injured party to file a lawsuit when they could not have detected the injury. As a result, in some instances the North Carolina statute of limitations begins to run from the time the injured party discovers or should have discovered that they have been injured.
Delaying or Tolling the North Carolina Statute of LimitationsIn certain circumstances, fairness would require that the statute of limitations be delayed for a period of time. A party may not have the ability to bring a case even though they are aware of an injury or damages. Delaying or "tolling" the statute of limitations typically occurs when the plaintiff is "disabled" - such as a minor child or a person who is mentally incompetent. Once the disability ends, the statute of limitations begins to run.
Calculating the length of time that a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit is complicated and involves many factors and exceptions. Parties that have suffered significant injuries or damages may wish to consult with a North Carolina attorney to ensure that all claims and notices are filed within the time limits set forth by law.
Personal Injury and Negligence3 years, generally.
Wrongful Death2 years.
Medical Malpractice3 years, generally, from 4 up to 10 years with the Discovery Rule. Special rules apply for the discovery of foreign objects in the body and for minors.
Legal and Professional Malpractice3 years, up to 4 years with the Discovery Rule.
Products Liability6 years.
Assault and Battery3 years.
False Imprisonment3 years.
ContractsWritten contracts 3 years. Oral contracts 3 years.
Personal Property Damages3 years.
Libel / Slander / Defamation1 year from the date of publication (or the date when spoken).
Debt Collection Accounts
Collection of Rent3 years.
Judgment Enforcement10 years.
Liability of State and MunicipalitiesSpecial rules apply, typically 2 years but see individual statutes.
Consumer Fraud ComplaintsNorth Carolina Office of the Attorney General
Telephone: (919) 716-6400
Please Take Note: The statute of limitations laws presented are strictly provided to you “as-is”. While we believe that the legal information is accurate as of the date created, we cannot and do not provide any guarantee, analysis or conclusions. The law may have changed since this article was published. The only way to ensure that the statute of limitations law you are reading is up to date and applies to your specific issue, is to have a legal consultation with an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of North Carolina.
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